While the Milwaukee Bucks were unable to beat the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Playoffs this year, the team will not have an easy off-season.
Instead, the Bucks will be actively defending against a trademark opposition claim filed by the makers of Jägermeister liqueur.
Jägermeister alleges, among other things, that the new Bucks logo is so similar to Jägermeister’s many registered “deer head” trademarks that the Bucks logo is “likely to cause confusion, mistake and deception as to the source or origin” of the Bucks goods.
This, Jägermeister argues, will cause injury and damage to the goodwill and reputation symbolized by Jägermeister’s own marks.
A basketball logo confusingly similar to a liqueur trademark? And causing injury?
How can this be?
Registered trademark owners can file an action with the USPTO Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”), seeking to prevent a new trademark from being registered.
The TTAB functions similarly to a court, but can only decide whether or not a trademark may be registered (not whether a party can legally use a trademark in connection with its goods or services).
The TTAB may cancel a trademark registration or refuse to register a pending trademark application.
The key in these proceedings is usually the likelihood of confusion issue.
However, likelihood of confusion is often in the eye of the registered trademark owner.
Comparing the Bucks and Jägermeister marks highlights both their similarities and notable differences:
Are individuals likely to confuse the basketball team with the alcoholic beverage (at least before they’ve consumed a few)?
So why file a TTAB action to block the Bucks from registering its trademark?
To preserve intellectual property rights, of course.
But also, for leverage.
Jägermeister’s attorneys acknowledge that its action was part formality to preserve its intellectual property rights. The parties have also been working towards settlement.
That settlement may include restrictions on how and on what products the Bucks may use its logo.
This may provide Jägermeister with assurances that its intellectual property rights are not in jeopardy.
Cheers to an amicable resolution.