Well, that’s a Rap! The Toronto Raptors make history and take home the NBA championship against the Golden State Warriors, putting The Six and The North forefront in basketball (a sport actually invented by a Canadian!), while uniting Canada, US and the rest of the world with it.
The NBA organization however still has another court battle to win.
Instead of a rival basketball team, the Raptors are facing off against the popular energy drink, Monster, who claim the Raptors’ logo – featuring a clawed-up basketball – is confusing similar to their own. A no, no, under intellectual property trademark laws.
Taking a look back at the brand’s history, the Raptors were warmly welcomed in Toronto, and across Canada, when they premiered in the 1995 NBA season, bringing basketball back to the city for the first time in fifty years. The team emerged amidst the hype of the Jurassic Park movie and piggybacked on the film’s success, and popularity of dinosaurs among 90’s youth, when creating their original logo – a dinosaur dribbling a basketball. The new team’s primarily purple gear was sought after, with over $20 million in merchandise purchased in the first month. By the end of 1994, before even playing their first game, their trademark was hot on the market and the Raptors were seventh in the league in merchandise sales. Effective branding sells!
However, the real heat around the Raptors trademark rights began shortly after the team unveiled their rebrand in 2014, the brainchild of Canadian creative services firm, Sid Lee and famed Toronto-born rapper, Drake. The new brand included the team’s new logo, described as “a circular shield with a ball torn by the unmistakable attack of a Raptor”, which they do not own a federal trademark registration for in Canada or the U.S.
At the time, the Raptors filed 18 trademark applications with the United States Patent Trademark Office (USTPO) around the new logo, however Monster Energy clawed back in 2015, filing oppositions which allege the Raptors’ logo is essentially too similar to the energy drinks own logo – which features three jagged vertical gashes.
The case is still on-going, with the USTPO case documents showing many time extensions filed, indicating the parties have likely attempted to settle the dispute with no resolution to date.
Maple Leaf Sports, who own the Raptors, have defended their trademark rights ferociously for the past four years, arguing that the new logo is an evolution of the original one and is “the same or substantially the same”. Last month Monster moved to block the Raptors’ argument that the similarity to their original logo would preclude Monster from protesting their new logo, claiming the claws in each of the Raptors’ logos are too different for one to be a relative of the other. However, many in the sports and legal worlds have noted and argued that various claws are used in many trademarked logos, which may play in favour for the Raptors.
While it is likely the two organizations will settle, perhaps with a partnership agreement and/or price tag, it may come down to a judge deciding if consumers would be likely confused by the similar logos to equate them as being from the same source. At best, the outcome could bring a different kind of win for the Raptors and a stop to Monster’s Kawhi-ning; at worst this could result in the Raptors relinquishing a logo that has served as an idol to the proudly WE THE NORTH, WINNING TEAM!
For more information about trademark protection or enforcement, please contact Erika Murray and Coleen Morrison of PCK Intellectual Property.
PCK is one of North America’s leading full service intellectual property firms with offices in both Canada and the United States. The firm represents large multinational companies, scaling mid-size companies, and funded innovative start-up entities. PCK IP professionals include seasoned patent and trademark agents, engineers, scientists and IP lawyers having experience across a broad range of industries and technologies. Contact Us Today.
The contents of this article is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice of any kind.