Readers of the Broadcast Law Blog are familiar with the potential trademark claims that may arise from the use of SUPER BOWL® (see here) or FINAL FOUR® in advertising or promotions (see here and here). I was recently asked, in light of the various “WORLD SERIES OF ____” marks that are being used for sports or activities other than baseball, whether there is a similar risk with using WORLD SERIES® in advertising or promotions during this time of year.
The short answer is yes.
The first use of “World Series” for the US professional sports championship took place in 1903, if not earlier. However, it was not until 1987 that the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball (“MLB”) began seeking federal registration for “World Series” trademarks. The applications were based on use of the marks before 1986. (Use of a trademark without registration can create “common law” marks, which are enforceable, but the owner of the mark does not have the presumptions of ownership and validity that accompany trademarks registered on the Principal Register of the US Patent and Trademark Office.)
Today, MLB owns a number of registered marks for “WORLD SERIES” in words, in a stylized format or…