December 4, 2009

Yankees Claim "Unfair Competition" From A Blog

We know what Yankees management did in the 2008-09 off-season -- comitted nearly a half-billion dollars to three players while demanding a few more dump trucks of taxpayer money. What are they going to do for kicks in 2009-10?

For starters, they threatened to file suit against five of the team's fans -- hardcore fans who have willingly spent their free time maintaining a blog. The Yankee Universe recently received a cease and desist letter, claiming, among other things, possible confusion (or even deception!) that the Yankees are sponsoring or have approved their blog. And the Yankees actually had the gall to claim these five bloggers might be guilty of "unfair competition" and "dilution" of the Yankees' trademark.

From TYU's reply to its readers:
We started this site a year ago because we love to write and argue about baseball. We've amassed a modest following – roughly 1,500 unique visitors per day – but by no means are we any more than a normal baseball fan blog. MLBAM knows this. There is nothing on our site that even appears to be detrimental to the Yankee brand.

The truth is, we're good for Major League Baseball and the Yankees. Bloggers like us help the league. We create interest, discussion, and new niches for the game. I know that reading blogs has made me a much bigger fan of the game, and I am sure that many of you had the same experience. Baseball has experienced an unprecedented period of growth that has coincided with the new predominance of baseball blogging on the internet.

What would MLBAM be without the hundreds of baseball blogs out there? And how many of those blogs use the names and images of teams? MLBAM is making a serious mistake by alienating its most important followers. ...

We do not think that any reasonable person can mistake our site for an official representation of the New York Yankees or MLBAM ...

We do not mean to pick a fight. We simply want all of our hard work over the past year to remain where it is.
Re TYU's line about "alienating its most important followers": Time and time (and time) again, the Lords of Baseball have, when faced with a decision regarding the future of the game, nearly always picked the option that pisses off the greatest number of fans. This is one more example to that long list. (Also, MLB has gone after bloggers before.)

[I know the Yankees have a charity known as Yankees Universe (with one hell of a homepage!), but they are still needlessly acting like bullies here. No one with an IQ above Jeter's Range Factor would confuse the targeted blog with either the team's official website or the charity. As the disclaimer to RLYW states: "If you think this is the official website of the New York Yankees, you're an idiot. Go away." The Yankees brand has not been, and will not be, tarnished by the existence of TYU. The club's legal department should find better ways to waste its time.]

I'm late to this story, as it looks now like TYU will shortly be abandoning their URL. And with the ominous threat of "dilution" now gone, the Yankees stockholders can breathe a collective sigh of relief.


allan said...

P.S. This blog is not affiliated in any way with the Boston Red Sox.

laura k said...

How pathetic. How really sad and pathetic. And so STUPID not to realize that fan blogs only help the "brand".

I look forward to hearing Amy on this.

Time and time (and time) again, the Lords of Baseball have, when faced with a decision regarding the future of the game, nearly always picked the option that pisses off the greatest number of fans.

Eyup. I say it all the time. You can set your watch by it.

allan said...

An author and Yankee blogger says: "Some years ago (or maybe it was .net) went through this same thing, which was why they changed to "" -- the Yankees claimed they held the trademark on the phrase "Bronx Bombers.""


The website guy felt he had a good case, but obviously did not have the money to fight it.

Amy said...

On a somewhat related note, the Yankees have recently opposed two trademark registrations: Baseball's Evil Empire (see here ) and The House that Juice Built (see here ).

I guess their lawyers must be bored or not too busy lately?

FenFan said...

"If you think this is the official website of the New York Yankees, you're an idiot. Go away."

How do you discern these idiots from other Yankees fans? :-)

Amy said...

I do have more to say on this case, but want to see what I can find about the facts first. Plus it's after 11 pm, and there's no Red Sox game to keep me awake!

tim said...

On a similar (?) note, I came on here to post that I am listening to Dire Straits - Sultan of Swing, and had visions of sweaty dongs - cannot wait until April!!!!!!!!!!

[Related because where the hell else can I tell a sewing circle about my random December 4th excitement about baseball season being right around the corner?!]

Other points:

a) lolz to the jeter range factor joke.

b) re: that charity homepage - WOW hello 1996! i thought they shut geocities down a couple months ago!

c) Said it before, will say it again: fuck the yankees. This is a joke - WHY does MLB/this organization habitually do these things that piss off fans of the game? Like fuck, these are FANS - they have a goddamn website constantly kept up to date and followed by other FANS - these people are putting a good deal of work into keeping up the blogs, which, as you said, enhances the interest of the game/team for fans - and PROBABLY results in more money in their pockets from merch/tickets etc. as a result of said increased interest.

I just can't fathom how these people have a different theory about blogs. Fucking copyright bullshits. Argh.

OK so what I intended to be an intellectual discussion point for this issue ended up being an emotionally charged tirade....well, I say to you again - WHERE ELSE can I bitch about this stuff???

Fuck! When's baseball gonna start?!

Amy said...

But a good exam question for the next time I teach trademark law!

Amy said...

So here's my thoughts, worth as usual only what you're paying for them: I don't think the Yankees have a likely claim here for either infringement or dilution of their trademarks. No infringement because it seems unlikely anyone would be confused about who sponsors the blog site. People write and broadcast using the Yankee marks all the time; people know the difference between commentary and sales of a product. No dilution because the blog is using the mark to refer to the actual Yankees, not to a different product. Dilution occurs where someone uses a famous trademark on a different product, thus diluting the uniqueness of the mark. Like using Pepsi on a bicycle. But here they are using Yankee marks to refer TO the Yankees.

So, yeah, really weak claims. And stupid. And there are First Amendment issues here also, another exception under the federal dilution statute.

Hope that wasn't more than anyone wanted to know....

Anonymous said...

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, I guess this is why we call the the MotherFuckingYankees.

Would not a disclaimer, centred, in bold, right at the top that said:

"Not directly or officially affiliated with the New York Yankees or Major League Baseball"

...not suffice? Would that not clear up the confusion?

Christ, there's nothing complicated going on here.

allan said...

Hope that wasn't more than anyone wanted to know....

If so, those people can stop reading.

I appreciate the info. I'm sure most people know nothing about trademark issues. I know only what I have picked up revising various letters and attachments from various law firms' IP departments over the years -- which isn't really much in a practical sense.

The blog did say they received legal advice, but did not elaborate. Obviously, they do not have the money to fight any litigation the MFY might bring, though it would be neat for a firm to take this up pro bono!

It's so much easier and less headache-producing to come up with a new name/url.

allan said...

lolz to the jeter range factor joke.

"shoe size" is a cliche and i'm sure i've used "room temperature" a few times already -- plus CI's RF is lower than both of those!

WHY does MLB/this organization habitually do these things that piss off fans of the game?

Because hardcore fans will not say FU to MLB and go away. We love baseball too much to have MLB's shit -- like Spiderman movie ads on the bases -- drive us away.

MLB wants/needs to grab casual fans. It knows it has almost all of us for life, so they don't have us in mind when they do things. Kinda like how the Democrats can move steadily to the right and know they'll still get votes from progressive-minded people because the alternative is worse.

allan said...

drleather2001, SoSH, October 30, 2009:

"The Yankees suck. They suck as people, they suck as men of honor. It is a group of assholes run by assholes that is funded by a bunch of assholes. In one fetid ball of Bronx bullshit the Yankees culture of suck collectively represents all that is worst in American culture, nee humanity: gluttony, arrogance, pride, vanity, stupidity, selfishness, and an unwavering inability to display a modicum of self awareness."

andy said...

Horseshit. That is all.

Amy said...

Allan, I think you are right. Any decent lawyer would probably say, "You can fight it and even win, but do you really want to spend the money?" Easier, as you said, just to change the URL and avoid the issue there, though I take it they are keeping the name of the blog.

BTW, there are different issues with using trademarks in domain names under the Anti-Cybersquatting Act, an act I am less familiar with. Maybe the Yankees have a stronger claim under that statute than under traditional trademark infringement or dilution law. I haven't looked at that statute in several years, so off the top of my head, I would not want to voice an opinion.