from the cubby-blues dept
As a lifelong Cubs fan with a resume that includes going to my first game at Wrigley when I was four months old and living in Wrigleyville for several years, I can at the very least claim some expertise on the culture around the team and the stadium. For those that have not been lucky enough to visit baseball's Mecca, the walk about up to the park consists of bar-laden streets on either Addison or Clark, with the sidewalks spilling over with fans, bar-patrons, and street vendors. Those street vendors offer innumerable wares, including t-shirts, memorabillia, and food. It's part of the experience.
An experience suddenly under fire by the team and Major League Baseball, which have jointly filed a federal lawsuit against some forty street vendors for trademark and counterfeit violations.
The Cubs and Major League Baseball filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday against a vendors hawking allegedly counterfeit and trademark-infringing merchandise.
"Defendants are a group of vendors who are deliberately free riding on the success of the Cubs and trading — without a license or permission — on the substantial goodwill associated with the Cubs' trademarks and trade dress," the team and the league claimed in the lawsuit, alleging the vendors "flooded Wrigleyville and the Internet with all manner of unlicensed products."
They're not wrong, of course. These vendors are everywhere. As I said, it's part of the experience. And it got to be that way because it's gone on forever. That the team is suddenly taking this action on the eve of a playoff run is within its rights, certainly, but doesn't otherwise make a great deal of sense. Were this the problem the filing appears to claim it is, it should have been a problem during last year's playoff run, or in 2007 and 2008 when the team also made postseason appearances.
While much is made in the Tribune post about how the internet has exacerbated this problem, the vendors targeted here sell solely on the street around the ballpark. Something they have surely done for years now. The team must surely have considered the question of whether forty street vendors posed a true threat to its trademark rights and the insane merchandise revenue it collects from its own sales, and whether or not that threat was of greater importance than an ambiance and culture that has always been central to the team's commercial success.
The Cubs clearly think the threat is real, but it's tough to see how that makes sense. Other avenues besides a federal lawsuit could have been pursued in order to protect the team's trademark rights, but the Cubs didn't go that route. Instead, street vendors will be brought into court, even as the team makes its run. The friendly confines feel a little less friendly all of a sudden.