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Giants Get Sued Over Team's "San Francisco" Logo 

Wednesday, Oct 12 2011

It was a deeply dissatisfying year on the diamond for the World Champion San Francisco Giants, who seemingly gave up hits and runs for Lent and toppled right out of playoff contention. So it was eerily symbolic — if no less frustrating — when the team was actually barred from trademarking its ubiquitous script "San Francisco" logo.

The trademark instead went to Gogo Sports of Hayward, which creates the "San Francisco"-emblazoned jackets and fleeces snapped up by tourists who don't realize it gets chilly in this city. Despite first moving merchandise with its San Francisco script in 1993, neither the Giants nor Major League Baseball ever moved to trademark the logo. Gogo, meanwhile, trademarked its script logo in March of this year. MLB's subsequent attempt was spurned by a Patent and Trademark examiner, who found the team logo "virtually identical" to the one on the fleeces sported by visitors from Kankakee, Ill.

A series of letters between Gogo's counsel and MLB's can be summed up thusly: "Cease and desist." "Show us your trademark." "We don't want to sue you." "We don't want to be sued." "So, cease and desist."

Having reached an impasse, Gogo late last month sued the Giants and Major League Baseball in federal court, asking for declaratory judgment — essentially a judge's blessing that they have done no wrong and can continue legally swathing San Francisco's tourists in their omnipresent fleeces. Gogo attorney Al Mohajerian did not return our messages. Calls to the Giants were shunted to MLB spokesman Matt Bourne, who declined to discuss active litigation — so it remains a mystery why the team failed to trademark its own logo for 18 years, then hurriedly tried to do so in April.

Half a dozen trademark attorneys tell SF Weekly, however, that the Giants are actually in a commanding legal position. Federal law "also protects unregistered trademarks," says Golden Gate University law professor William Gallagher. "If the Giants have been using the script logo on their merchandise for years, it's likely they'll have strong trademark rights based on use alone."

In fact, since the team can assuredly establish prior use of a logo deemed "virtually identical" to Gogo's, it's the clothing company that may be facing the legal equivalent of a Brian Wilson heater. Asked to assess the Giants' legal position in baseball terms, trademark attorneys Milord Keshishian and Anthony Malutta both said the G-Men have loaded up the bases with no one out. To this scenario Keshishian added that Barry Bonds is at the plate. An earlier iteration of Bonds, say 1993 — back when the team could have trademarked its logo and avoided this whole mess.

Read the source documents online:

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" is a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly, which he has written for since 2007. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers... more


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