Little noticed among this week’s flying blue W flags is the notice of allowance of the W trademark for caps and clothing.
Yes, just Tuesday, November 1, 2016, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office agreed to issue the W trademark to the Chicago Cubs for valuable merchandising rights.
Before winning the World Series, the Chicago Cubs were valued at a cool $2.2 billion, and with this season’s capstone win, they have to be worth $3 billion now.
If the lovable losers were worth $900 million to Tom Ricketts in 2009, how much more are winners worth? Winners who are transformed after a 100-year drought?
Much of the value of any enterprise is intangible. How much would Wrigley Field (“bricks and mortar”) be worth without its trademark sign: Wrigley Field Home of Chicago Cubs? (Yes, that’s a registered trademark.) Maybe a remodeled old stadium is worth a couple hundred million dollars.
Book value of an old, depreciated baseball stadium is not much. Television contracts, particularly for the Cubs with their upcoming new channel, are worth more than the stadium. Gate receipts add up, and attendance is up this year, with a waiting list for season tickets.
The Cubs’ contracts with players are worth a lot; they’re also a liability, as every team knows that is saddled with a long term contract with a player who can no longer pitch, hit, or field the ball.
Baseball is big business, major league, you might say. It’s a place for statisticians, as made famous in Michael Lewis’s book Moneyball and the major motion picture.
Merchandising is big. The Chicago Cubs registration for clothing is huge.
However the accountants might add up the book value of the Chicago Cubs, they’re going to have to allocate the bulk of the billions to goodwill, that is, to intangibles, to intellectual property, to trademarks.
MLB and the Cubs are pretty diligent about policing the marketplace. They do a roundup, a seizure, a court case against counterfeiters regularly.
The Cubs own only a few registered trademarks. They’re doing a good job, now, of protecting their marks, which have evolved over the years. As logos are revised from year to year, it is important to update the standards and the registrations.
It wasn’t a cake walk, by the way, for the Cubs to register the blue W for caps and clothing. There must be 100 different trademark registrations for W, for all manner of goods. An entity called Worth protested the Cubs’ legal maneuver. The Cubs’ application was refused initially on the ground of likelihood of confusion with the W trademark of the Washington Nationals baseball team. The Cubs had to obtain and file the formal consent of the Nationals (presumably MLB teams are expected to play nice) before the blue W was allowed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
What are you doing in your business to protect your trademark? Have you had it cleared? Registered? Are you using it in a standard font and color? Are you on top of the legal requirements for statement of use and renewals? Are you policing the marketplace for counterfeits?
Be like the Cubs. Call your lawyer. Protect your trademark. Win the big game.