Major League Bullies: Teams Seek Hypocritical Trademark Ruling
Can a Major League Baseball team own the alphabet? MLB seems to think so, as it has been on a two year mission to block WalletHub’s application for this trademark:. Why would a professional sports league care about the logo of a financial services company, you might ask?
Good question. The league alleges that WalletHub’s logo could easily be confused with the registered trademarks of the Washington Nationals and the Chicago Cubs. But aside from the fact that none of their marks look anything like the WalletHub logo(and very few people would associate the Cubs with W’s these days), they’re also registered for clothing and flags while WalletHub’s logo is for financial services – namely, comparing and learning about products such as credit cards, mortgages, savings accounts, car loans, insurance policies, etc.
MLB’s dogged defense of its intellectual property also ignores the fact that more than 1,000 “W” trademarks coexist, including those for large, recognizable companies like Walgreens, W Hotels and Wikipedia as well as a range of organizations that participate in the arena of sports, such as the University of Washington, the University of Wisconsin and Wilson Sporting Goods.
I suppose this type of frivolous corporate bullying is simply what you have to endure as a growing start-up these days. I mean, lawyers seem to love us. In addition to WalletHub’s trademark case, CardHub (WalletHub’s sister site) recently took a trip to court to successfully defend consumer rights and a transparent credit card market against First Premier Bank’s attempts at intimidation.
But the pure hypocrisy of MLB’s case is nevertheless hard to swallow. The Nationals are claiming infringement upon an old block-letter logo no Washington team has used in over 50 years, while their signature curly W logo is basically identical to the Walgreens logo. And the Cubs are alleging encroachment of a block-W flag that hardly anyone associates with them and could just as easily be confused with the fan regalia of someone from the University of Washington or the University of Wisconsin.
Can you see why this all seems so silly to us?
Perhaps you can, but you may still be wondering why we ultimately care so much and why this is a big deal. There are a couple of reasons. For starters, we don’t take bullying from anyone. It’s just one of WalletHub’s core values. We exist to provide an unbiased ally for consumers, and that includes speaking out against unfair practices both in the world of personal finance and beyond.
What’s more, legal bullying is a serious problem that actually does have economic and personal finance ramifications. Engaging in these legal tiffs adds unnecessary costs to every company’s budget, and who do you think actually foots that bill? Consumers like you and me, be it in the form of higher prices, less growth, or diminished investment returns.
I have spoken to countless entrepreneurs over the years who have been on the wrong side of this type of corporate aggression. Many even consider it a rite of passage. But I don’t agree. I see legal bullying as a drain on resources that should not be tolerated.
While there appears to be no end to this institutional practice in sight, WalletHub will indeed keep fighting the good fight just to show everyone out there that the little guy can indeed pack quite a punch. I’ll be sure to keep you in the loop along the way.
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