LA Chargers Already Face Trademark Opposition To Their Name Over The Term 'L.A.'

from the la-la-land dept

There may be nothing more frustrating than trademarks being granted for terms that serve as simple geographic identifiers. With a couple of recent stories revolving around names of cities, or acronyms of them, it's probably time to consider whether some kind of official reform of trademark rules needs to be undertaken to keep companies from locking up such broad terms for commercial purposes. And there may be at least a slim chance that this conversation is starting, with the high profile example of the newly minted Los Angeles Chargers NFL team serving as notice.

It was only this past week that the Chargers finally announced what everyone already knew was going to happen: the team is moving to the city of angels. As is SOP for an organization of its size, the team filed trademark applications for several iterations of its team name, including the term "LA Chargers." And that, almost immediately, is where the problems began to arise.

Unfortunately for the team, its “LA Chargers” trademark application ran into an issue. On Dec. 20, LA Gear, the ‘80s-era athletic apparel company, filed a Notice of Opposition with the Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board related to the apparel portion of the “LA Chargers” application, on the grounds that it conflicts with LA Gear’s trademarks, and is likely to cause consumer confusion as to the source of the goods.

In the opposition, the Chargers are referred to as “Applicant” and LA Gear is “Opposer.” The document lists 22 U.S. trademark registrations owned by LA Gear. The oldest dates back to 1985. Two of LA Gear’s registrations are in the form of logos that consist of the letters “LA” – meaning those logo registrations do not include the word “Gear.”

This. Is. Ridiculous. Allowing for a monopoly on all things apparel over the acronym of the second largest city in the United States has absolutely zero to do with protecting the consuming public from confusion, no matter what LA Gear's opposition filing states. This is all to do with pushing the Chargers instead into some kind of lucrative licensing deal. And, for once, there is actually going to be some validity in common claims that failing to police the mark can result in it no longer being protected, particularly given that examples of LA Gear's failure in doing so includes examples analogous to the Chargers.

Back in 2008, Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy received a trademark for a logo that includes the words “LA Galaxy.” The Trademark Office records for that application show no opposition filed by LA Gear. It’s possible that the MLS team may have negotiated a private agreement with LA Gear to avoid these issues, and the Chargers/NFL haven’t been willing or able to do so. It seems more likely that LA Gear’s opposition to the LA Chargers trademark is a new tactic, and that the company intends to test the boundaries of its trademark rights in phrases including the word “LA,” at least as they apply to athletic apparel.

And that's hopefully a test that it will flunk, should the Chargers seek to have LA Gear's trademark protections repealed. And they should be, just as the mark never should have been granted in the first place. Were employees of the Trademark Office to have simply asked themselves whether approving the LA Gear trademark application did more to serve the public or the applying company, the conclusion would have been clear, as would have been the appropriateness of rejecting the application to begin with. Instead, this must happen on the back end, hopefully with a challenge to the mark by the Chargers.

Sadly, some are predicting that the team won't bother.

LA Gear’s claim may be a bit of a stretch, but it’s not impossible that the Trademark Office – or a court, should this dispute go that far – would rule in its favor. With all the drama around the team’s departure from San Diego, I’d bet the Chargers will simply come to a settlement agreement with LA Gear rather than put their incredibly valuable brand at risk of an adverse court ruling.

Here's hoping the team shows some backbone instead. No single entity ought to be able to control the acronym for a major city in this way.

Filed Under: chargers, la, la chargers, trademark
Companies: la gear


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2017 @ 7:31pm

    Shouldn't happen to a member of such a fine upstanding organization as the NFL. They could change their name to The Fallen Angels, although The Hells Angels might take exception.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2017 @ 9:18pm

    With enough money...

    I'm sure they can get a court to rule in their favor.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    PRMan, 18 Jan 2017 @ 10:11pm

    How...?

    The Dodgers have been selling merchandise with just LA on it for over 60 years.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 12:46am

      Re: How...?

      In the opposition, the Chargers are referred to as “Applicant” and LA Gear is “Opposer.” The document lists 22 U.S. trademark registrations owned by LA Gear. The oldest dates back to 1985

      I'm guessing that they haven't tried to challenge the Dodgers because if they tried to bring it to court, and the Dodgers have been using it for 60 years it would be really easy to turn it around on them and say that the Dodgers have used it longer, and therefore LA Gear, if anyone, was the one guilty of trademark violation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 5:26am

      Re: How...?

      The Dodgers have been selling merchandise with just LA on it for over 60 years.

      Yep. The real problem is that the author of this post knows pretty much zero about trademark law.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        WDS (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 6:54am

        Re: Re: How...?

        Nice jab at Tim. I'm curious though, what is it about the point he is trying to make that you disagree with. You think a single entity should be able to control the name or abbreviation for a large City?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 20 Jan 2017 @ 4:52am

        Re: Re: How...?

        Well, with such a well thought out and presented argument, backed by extensive evidence and references to what he got wrong and why, I must say you've certainly convinced me.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    bwburke94 (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 6:08am

    The reason LA Gear won't win this thing

    Where were they when the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers officially changed their name to "LA Clippers" in 2015? Shouldn't they have objected to that trademark filing as well?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    SpaceLifeForm, 19 Jan 2017 @ 10:53am

    Business Publicity or Business Streisand Effect?

    Maybe LA Gear does not care
    and will fold like a cheap tent.

    Compare LA Rams vs LA Chargers.

    Rams is OK? But Chargers not OK?

    Did #slamstan already give in?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bruce C., 19 Jan 2017 @ 11:27am

    Not to mention...

    The fair state of Louisiana should also have a dog in this race. Maybe LA gear can file a suit against every city in the state: New Orleans, LA; Baton Rouge, LA; etc.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.