In April 2015, the National Basketball Association’s Milwaukee Bucks announced that it was in the midst of a project to redesign the team’s logo. Reports indicated that the logo would retain a version of the deer’s head which had graced the team’s previous logo, but with a new green and cream color scheme. In various versions of the logo, the deer’s head is partially surrounded by two green concentric circles which are broken by the deer’s antlers with the words “Milwaukee Bucks” printed in an arc along the bottom of the circles.
Not everyone is enthralled by the new look for the Milwaukee Bucks and one foreign liqueur maker has taken steps to have the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office cancel its registration of certain trademarks related to the Bucks new logo. On December 8th, German liqueur developer Mast-Jägermeister filed a petition with the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) seeking to oppose U.S. Trademark Serial No. 86586186. This trademark application would register the aforementioned Bucks logo involving concentric circles, deer’s head and the words “MILWAUKEE BUCKS” on a rounded banner. Color is not claimed as a feature of this trademark. If registered, the trademark would be protected for the use in trademark class 41 for education and entertainment services; specifically, the mark would be used with ongoing television and radio programs for rendering live basketball games and exhibitions, among other basketball-related services.
The TTAB petition filed by Jägermeister identifies a series of eight U.S. trademarks held by the liqueur maker as grounds for opposition to the Bucks’ ‘186 trademark application. The vast majority of these marks have only been registered for use in trademark class 33, which covers alcoholic beverages except for beers. There is one mark held by Jägermeister and asserted in this opposition action which overlaps with trademark class 41: U.S. Trademark Serial No. 79009630. This covers the use of an illustration mark consisting of a circle enclosing a cross and a stag on class 41 services including entertainment, sporting and cultural activities, especially relating to events and festivals for music. Jägermeister’s opposition petition identifies five different grounds for opposition, including priority and likelihood of confusion, dilution by blurring, dilution by tarnishment, false suggestions of a connection with an institution as well as deceptiveness.
According to documents available through TTAB’s Inquiry System (TTABVue), answers to the petition for opposition are due by January 17th. If Jägermeister were to prevail in this case, the Milwaukee Bucks would be free to continue using its new logo but it would lose certain benefits afforded to federally registered trademarks, which provide greater rights for trademark holders to pursue legal action against those producing goods with a copycat logo.