Esports fans are still winding down from the excitement of Overwatch League’s latest announcement of the seven city-based teams. The legal department, however, is facing a whole different breed of news regarding the League’s trademark.
Once trademarks are approved, they’re published in the Official Gazette. This is essentially a weekly newsletter by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Upon publication, other parties who believe they may be harmed by the impending registration of the mark have 30 days to file one of two things with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”): an opposition to the trademark or a request for more time to file that opposition. If neither of these are filed or if an opposition is unsuccessful, the application will move to the next stage of the registration process without issue. If one of these is filed, however, the TTAB takes the reigns.
Unfortunately, the Overwatch League couldn’t push the payload of trademark registration any farther. Following publication of the League’s logo on March 28, Major League Baseball took issue with the likeness of the logo to its own. Just one day before the 30 day deadline, MLB requested an extension of time to oppose the logo, stating that it needed an additional 90 days to investigate the claim and to confer with counsel. Although we usually see things move slowly at the Trademark Office, the request was accepted the same day.
Is there a chance that the MLB will suffer harm because of the similarity of the logos?
It’s hard to argue that there’s some no likeness here and it is hard to deny that the Overwatch League logo may have been inspired by the MLB logo. Tracer acts as the baseball player pictured in MLB’s logo. She faces the same direction and separates the contrasting colors of the League’s brand. Additionally, the logo is the same rectangular shape and dons virtually the same text layout despite the different fonts.
But does the Overwatch League logo deceive fans into thinking the MLB is a participant? And is there really consumer confusion here? With both of these trademarks residing in the realm of sports and entertainment, this could be a tricky one. In the end, the answers are for the TTAB to decide.
We’re still waiting on the MLB to submit its opposition with the deadline for submission on July 26. If the MLB’s opposition is successful, perhaps we’ll be seeing a slightly different Overwatch League logo in the future. Winston would look pretty good as the face of Overwatch League, don’t you think?
Author and frequent D.Va cosplayer, Caroline Womack. Caroline is a rising 2L at Quinnipiac University School of Law and primarily studies intellectual property law, focusing on video game and internet law.