MLS Attempts to Trademark Term “Cascadia Cup”

Posted in Fan Culture, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver

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Published on January 06, 2013 with 62 Comments

A row is brewing over an attempt by Major League Soccer Head Office in Manhattan to Trademark the term ‘Cascadia Cup’ in Canada.

The Cascadia Cup is a tournament between the three sides in the region, Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers and the Vancouver Whitecaps with only matches in derby games counting towards the points total.

The Cup first played in 2004 when all three sides were in the United Soccer League (USL).

Created by organised Supporters Groups (SGs), the cup is physically received and held by the winning fans and presented by supporters of the club who previously held it. The trophy was designed and paid for by the members of the Supporter Groups in Seattle, Vancouver and Portland.

In 2011, it was contested for the first time in Major League Soccer, having been previously contested outside it, as either a three team competition until 2009 or a two team one, when only Seattle were in MLS.

SGs also set the rules for the competition. In 2012, it was the SG leaders decided how the cup should be awarded under an imbalanced schedule where one side plays more derby games at home than another.

However, despite the cup’s history and grass roots character, MLS have made an audacious bid to make the term and consequently any marketing rights for the tournament theirs.

On December 17, 2012, MLS filed a Trademark with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) for the term “Cascadia Cup”. The claim was formalized two days later.

A Toronto law firm called Bereskin and Parr acted as agents for MLS. Under the heading “Claims”, the application form describes the Cascadia Cup as a term ‘Used in CANADA since at least as early as March 16, 2011.’

The Cascadia Cup of course was contested before then outside the confines of Major League Soccer and the choice of date in the filing seems deliberately worded to exclude the Cup’s previous history which began in 2004, long before any of the Cascadian sides entered Major League Soccer. 2011 was only the first year it was contested with MLS matches being used to adjudicate the winner.

Early indications are that Supporters Groups are not going to accept the attempt to take marketing control of their competition easily.

A leading member of one SG told us:

“We are already on it. Actually we find this attempt amusing. We don’t think MLS’ claim is legitimate in any way and they shouldn’t expect it to go uncontested.”

Kevin Zelko leads the Gorilla FC Supporters Group in Seattle was willing to go on the record and was being characteristically generous. He advised some caution:

“I want to give them (MLS) the benefit of the doubt before anybody goes crazy. Maybe they did it to protect the name from someone outside soccer. If that really is the case, it’s now our job as Supporters to now accept ownership of the trademark from them.”

Prost Amerika understands that there is talk of a legal entity is being formed to challenge the application and the SGs in the three Cascadian cites are already forming a plan of action.

 

They have time to act. According to the CIPO website:

‘An opposition cannot be commenced until after the trade-mark application has been advertised in the Trade-marks Journal. Once the application has been advertised, there is a two-month period within which a would-be opponent can either file a statement of opposition or request an extension of time for the purpose of doing so.’

The latest Trade-marks journal was published on January 2 with the next edition out on Wednesday 9th. MLS’s application has not yet appeared.

Once it does, the Supporters Groups or any combined entity have two months to file a Statement of Opposition. Section 38 section 2 (c) gives four specific reasons why an application may be opposed, one of which is:

‘that the applicant is not the person entitled to registration of the trade-mark’.

There is a fee of Can $750 to file a claim of opposition.

The Cascadian Supporters Groups are holding a conference call on Monday to discuss their reaction, and no official view from the combined group is expected till after that, when the probability is of a joined statement.

More:

MLS Issues First Response to Cascadia Cup Trademark Row

Cascadia Supporters Groups File Rival Trademark Claim





62 Comments

Comments for MLS Attempts to Trademark Term “Cascadia Cup” are now closed.

  1. Why interview Zelko? He has no pony in this race.

    • He is head of Gorilla FC and sits on the IRC council for league wide SG’s. He is also a member of the Alliance Council for Sounders FC. I would say he is a pretty involved fan even thought he may not have a pony to ride…

    • lol typical ecs elitism holding strong

      • the difference is that GFC and Zelko were not around or involved in the creation of the Cascadia Cup. the cup belongs to the ECS, the TA and the Southsiders, respectively. not the Sounders,Timbers,White Caps, MLS or anyone else

        • Then why doesn’t it list ECS, Southsiders and Timbers Army as the winners on the base?

          • Because the names of the teams that win the award are in no way relevant to who owns the name of the award?

            I can’t tell if you’re asking a serious question or not, but I can assure you that the names that are engraved on the trophy have nothing to do with this. I feel pretty good guessing it’s not important in Canada either.

          • The point now, is not who owns or created the idea but who has laid a legal claim and stake to the future possession. Those that now own the “Cascadia Cup” need to lay quick claim and protect their interest before the MLS snatches it up and does as they please !!!!

        • Ah The MLS thinks they own it now !!! What are you going to do to get it back?

    • Just shove intraclub supporter group fighting. Their officers have learned to work together, so you should take that as an indication that maybe your energy is best spent doing something other than dismissing another SG’s officer merely because he doesn’t agree with you.

      • I couldn’t agree more Michael although I will give the ECS leadership credit for trying to rein in some of this stuff over the years. That said, it is clear that another message to their members to lay off public personal attacks might be timely.

  2. It should be noted that MLS filed for trademarks on several of the “rivalry cups” around the league- including some that have been in use for several years.

    If you go to this page you’ll see several results from the league:
    http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=toc&state=4008%3A8huoj.1.1&p_search=searchss&p_L=50&BackReference=&p_plural=yes&p_s_PARA1=&p_tagrepl~%3A=PARA1%24LD&expr=PARA1+AND+PARA2&p_s_PARA2=Major+League+Soccer&p_tagrepl~%3A=PARA2%24OW&p_op_ALL=AND&a_default=search&a_search=Submit+Query&a_search=Submit+Query

    (In case of a dead link, try going to http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/gate.exe?f=searchss&state=4008:8huoj.1.1 and then enter “Major League Soccer” in the “Search Term” field and in the “Field” pull-down menu, select “Owner Name and Address”)

    And here you can see some of the cups (all filed on December 18th with the United States Patent Office):
    Trillium Cup (Columbus and Toronto FC): http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=doc&state=4008:8huoj.8.3
    Texas Derby (Houston and Dallas): http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=doc&state=4008:8huoj.8.4
    Rocky Mountain Cup (Salt Lake and Denver): http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=doc&state=4008:8huoj.8.5
    Brimstone Cup (Chicago and Dallas): http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=doc&state=4008:8huoj.8.6

    Now, I personally find it interesting that they filed in what appears to be the appropriate nations for every rivalry cup EXCEPT the Cascadia Cup. When you go to the same type of search page in the Canadian Patent Office system (http://www.cipo.ic.gc.ca/app/opic-cipo/trdmrks/srch/bscSrch.do?lang=eng) and search for “Major League Soccer” in the owner field, you notice that they filed for trademarks for all kinds of things on/around December 17th, 2012.

    And specifically, the Trillium Cup, which is contested with a team from the USA and a team from Canada, is applied for in both Canada and the USA.

    However, the Cascadia Cup is only filed for in Canada.

    This seems to be a pretty clear indication that they intentionally did NOT file in the USA, probably knowing that the Cascadia Cup has been around longer than MLS *and* that since two of the strongest supporter communities are in Seattle and Portland they would get more trouble from these groups.

    So obviously the SGs here in the States need to get together on this and probably file for their own trademark on the Cascadia Cup.

    Additionally, the Southsiders need to challenge it in Canada, if for no other reason than to protect the international trademark rights and the internet rights. Internet domain name disputes are administered by ICANN rules. (See http://www.icann.org/en/help/dndr/udrp)

    The gist of the domain name issue is that the first group to get a trademark in any nation then has the rights to that internet name globally- so even if the American SGs retained the rights to the “Cascadia Cup” mark in the USA, if MLS continues to hold the mark in Canada, MLS could then snatch the domain (www.thecascadiacup.com) for themselves.

    Really, though, this is a ham-handed move by MLS. These cups are created by and for fans and supporters. If the league were truly just “trying to protect the trademark” on behalf of the SGs as Kevin suggests, then it should have reached out to the groups involved and helped THEM to file trademark claims.

    The fact that it did not is telling. The league needs to wake up and realize that by proactive working with its supporter groups, it will realize far greater gains than it will by acting in secret from them, as though they are enemies.

    Thankfully on a Club level, Seattle and Portland ownership groups seem to grasp this (to varying degrees, anyway). Vancouver is figuring it out. MLS as a whole, however, still has a long way to go.

    • Great post !!!! They have started the legal battle seek legal council in order to come to an agreeable settlement…… Protect the rights of the Cascadia Cup fans who are the owners of the cup….

    • Realistically, the ECS and the TA might also want to challenge it in Canada. As logistically challenging as that could be, If MLS were to be awarded the trademark in Canada and we didn’t contest it, that would make it more likely they’d win a trademark application down here in the future.

  3. Here’s an idea. Let’s just have the cup sponsored like all those wacky college football bowl games. Think about it…the “STARBUCKS CUP”, “BEN AND JERRY’S-REI-TOYOTA CUP” or my personal favorite, the”RI-DQ-LOUS CUP”.

    • I think XBox 360 will be looking for a place to splash 20 million in another year, when the Sounders FC take on a new Kit sponsor !!!

  4. As a founding contributor to the Cup’s purchase in 2004, I’m absolutely disgusted by this, but not at all surprised. Looking forward to a response from our supporters groups. For those tweeting on the issue, how about #GrandTheftCascadia ?

  5. Besides being the dues paying ECS member that I am, where I do I send money to help defend our ****ing cup?

    Don’t get me wrong. I love the MLS. I am about as a die hard MLS fan as you will meet. I honestly think that they are on the right path and that in 20 years we will be a top flight soccer league on par with the EPL, Bundesliga, Serie A, etc. However, this is FU***** BULL****. This isn’t their cup, IT’S FU***** ours, literally, we paid the money to buy it.

    Like the away ticket’s fiasco, this is something I am more than happy to link arms with TA and Southsider bit*** to see through.

    • You and a whole bunch of others are on board with uniting the SG’s for protecting the Cup !!!

  6. My guess is the boys and girls at SUM and MLS FO want to sell “Cascadia Cup” gear and other items. If they have a trademark then they dont have any legal issues in doing so, or have to pay any sort of royalty on sales to the supporters groups for using their trademark to make a buck. I have no information to back this thought up, but it would not surprise me.

    • Probably a pretty good guess.

      If the SGs could get the trademark, they should offer to cross-license. MLS allows SGs to use Club names and marks on their gear, and the SGs would allow MLS to use “Cascadia Cup” on their adidas-branded gear. :)

      • Maybe they might even spend some money to advertise the games and use the name on TV !!!

    • The Southsiders were making Cascadia Cup gear years ago and selling it. Due to Canadian copyright laws MLS will probably lose if this goes to court in Canada. Also there is the court of public opinion and by this first foray they are going to lose and lose badly.

    • The would be exactly the reason. Merchandise Sales and possible sponsorship deals for naming rights to the Cup..

    • What precedent does MLS have of selling gear based on a fan-based Cup Competition? We’re jumping to conclusions without giving MLS any benefit of the doubt.

      When’s the last time you purchased apparel from MLS.com? Do you think the hardcore Cascadia fans (the only ones would buy t-shirts) would buy from the league over the SGs? Remember the rest of the MLS isn’t going to buy Cascadia Cup shirts – only the fans of the 3 teams up here would…. and they’d likely buy it locally from themselves. So what “money grab” is there for MLS?

      • The MLS doesn’t DESERVE the benefit of the doubt. They know damn good and well that the Cascadia Cup has existed since 2004, before any of the 3 teams were part of the MLS. In trademark law, if you don’t defend your trademark, you lose exclusive rights to it. The MLS’ lawyers aren’t idiots. They know this. The only explanation I can see is that the MLS was hoping no one would find out until it was a done deal.

        • “The only explanation I can see is that the MLS was hoping no one would find out until it was a done deal.”

          You’re welcome! (The donate button is top right SGs) ;-)

      • And to answer your question about where the money grab is, if the league owned the trademark, they could sue anyone else that made gear that mentioned the cup. Such producers would have to get a license from the league to produce such gear.

  7. Looking through the 107ist board it appears there was an attempt to copyright Cascadia Cup during the summer, and that all three supporters groups were involved. Does anyone know what happened to this initiative?

  8. MLS owns you, MLS owns your cup. Mmmm, single-entity. Tastes so good going down.

  9. When Sepp Blatter trashed soccer in the United States, I was (and am) fully in support of MLS. Then they go and do something bush league like this. I wish I could say I am surprised, but I’m not. The short-sightedness of the suits in New York sometimes is astonishing. One would hope that they would figure out that they are doing more to push supporters with these kind of actions, and that it hurts relations with an important segment of their fan base. I also am willing to pony up what I can in defense of OUR CUP!

  10. I hope MLS fails miserably with this… But in the meantime looks like we had better start coming up with alternate names for the CC… If they succeed, let them have it… We will just ignore it and I am sure the players will too.

    • What does that solve? Do you not want MLS advertising the Cascadia Cup on their website? Why not?

  11. Haha, the MLS strikes once again!!

  12. Wow, people on this post are stupid. MLS is trying to protect your ****ing cup, because a third party could come along an then steal the name, because no one holds the rights. Also who ****ing cares? MLS is a single single entity, and can do what ever they like. If they make money from it who cares? that means a little more money that your clubs can spend.

    • Children get protected for their own good, with or without their consent. If the MLS is, as you suggest, just protecting our fing cup, then they are doing it in a very condescending way which shows how much respect they have for the SGs.

      Seems to me that if MLS motives are as you say, they would be championing their selflessly provided legal counsel all over the place. Really, it is a lost opportunity for them if that is the case. They should be headlining articles, “MLS Provides Legal Support for Supporters Groups to Protect the Legacy of Local Rivalry Competitions.”

      • You make the best point here. At worst, MLS neglected to involve the SGs. But this whole thing reeks entirely of a parent protecting a child. MLS may not have gone about it the right way, but they had the SGs best interests in mind.

        We should put a cap on how far we exactly rake them over the coals for it. ;-)

    • Are you high? Name a time in recent history that a League Office in any sport acted in a benevolent fashion for the good of it’s fans/supporters/public. As stated above, this is the most condesending way to “protect” our f***ing cup. It’s a branding grab, pure and simple. Work with us, not behind/against us.

      • No, I’m not high, it was supposed to sound crazy.

        • No, futfetish, not you, T-Bone. Your reply made total sense.

  13. I swear I don’t even think we deserve a league. Soccer fans are starting to become like the insane members of the republican party. You all sound like idiot’s crying acting like someone is taking your cup, are you guys going anywhere,no. So last time I check, your teams will still play for the cup.

    • If by “insane members of the republican party” you mean the ones that actually believe in personal liberty and think that the democrats are starting to legislate morality for the good of the populace whom they clearly know better than (banning cigarettes, large sodas, trans fats, etc.), then yes, I suppose soccer fans are acting like that. (FYI, I’m not a republican)

      • . Yes the same republican party that signed laws, in which they can tap your phone. The same republican party that signed into law, allowing an independent agency, with no oversight, to watch people, who might be a threat to the US government. You know those people,activist or any one who speaks out towards the government. All were signed by the same republican party. Both parties have cut down on the american freedom,which is why i’m libertarian. You got me off track, here’s the point, so what if MLS makes money from the naming rights, the money is going right back into your clubs. Which is the goal at the end of the day. So please stop sounding like these idiot members of political parties.

        • I think the point behind everything is this: Supporters are part of the club. Players, coaches, owners, even leagues, come and go. The heart of a club are the people who support it, nurture it, help it grow, in good times and bad. Benevolent or not, when the league does things or tries to control things that belong to the supporters, it is wrong. You make the point about large sized sodas. Okay, so the cup is our soda. We as supporters have a vested intrest in what happens to something we created, and nurtured. Would you allow someone to take something from you that you created and helped grow, because they were big and knew better how to protect/use it?

        • I’m also libertarian (although with a small l, not a LP member), so I’m with you on that. It is on topic, though, as democrats and republicans both want to control people for their own good, and it seems that MLS is both major political parties here. Or more accurately, supporters are the libertarians getting pushed around by the Republican Party (remember the Republican National Convention 2012?). I don’t see how frustration at being cut out of the loop, a loop created by SGs, is acting like a republican.

          • Spot on!

          • “supporters are the libertarians getting pushed around by the Republican Party”

            I so have to argue with that. Just let me work out why ……..

            OK, here goes …..

            Supporters are not libertarians. They believe in supporting their team collectively as a unit, not acting independently for their own personal gratification.

            They stand together and sing together as part of a group. They wear colours that identify them with others, as equals. They believe in adhering to rules agreed by the majority eg eradicating the YSA chant or adhering to FO rules on away fans (even though they were dumb and unnecessary), or joining travel clubs organised by their national FAs.

            When I traveled as a foot soldier of the Tartan Army in my youth, the knowledge I was part of a whole greater than myself was paramount. So was the obligation to protect and take interest in the welfare of others in the Tartan Army.

            If any group is unlike the “I’ll do what I please” mentality of US libertarians, it’s soccer fans.

            Discuss…..

      • Wasn’t the large soda ban introduced by a republican or at least a former one? ;-)

        • Yeah, blubbering Bloomberg doesn’t know which party is most conducive to controlling the poor schmucks he wants to save against their free will. He is an admittedly bad example to hold against any one party over the other.

  14. Editor is right… You guys(futfetish) need to get your political jabs correct before you make them…

    It was Michael Bloomberg that put together that silly ban on large sodas, etc. who is/was in no way shape or form a democrat. He was a republican and now calls himself an independent, never a democrat.

    Typical of uninformed people these days. They start ranting about what they think they know and don’t even realize they are supporting their opposition through their own ingnorance.

    For what it’s worth, I find this dubious on the part of MLS. I do like the idea of MLS supporting and promoting such rivalries. Good for the league, fun for the fans/supporters, etc. That said, this looks more like a marketing grab to me, since there is no evidence of MLS reaching out to the originators of the Cascadia Cup or good faith effort to work with them rather than simply snatch up the rights to sell merch for it.

    • “Editor is right”

      You don’t read that on Prost Amerika every day!

      • Maybe we can get that translated into Turkish to “Gentlemen, the Editor is right!”

  15. Just like the cubs vs the sox here in Chicago. The BP crosstown cup. I think it even has the BP logo on it.

  16. Tool fan:
    I wasn’t ranting, my larger point stands, and I addressed the Bloomberg thing above.

    Editor:
    I was really just thinking of the ‘relationship’ of the Libertarian Party to that of the Republican Party. Specifically, the way that they were used for votes but then marginalized at the RNC.

    Otherwise I totally agree with you both.

  17. This has little to do with whether MLS can make money on the brand/idea of the Cascadia Cup. As discussed with the cross licensing, I would think many have no problem with MLS selling some gear.

    It has to do with control.

    If the fans do not control the brand/idea/competition and MLS does, then MLS can do whatever it wants with the competition. There has been some talk on some of the forums about including San Jose for example because the Heritage Cup hasn’t gotten as much prestige among Portland and Vancouver. We wouldn’t have control over a decision like this.

    MLS can re-name it. MLS can prevent anyone else from using the name Cascadia Cup. MLS can decide what the rules of the competition are. How the cup is awarded. They can replace the trophy with something else. They can make it a club owned and displayed trophy instead of a fan held one. The list goes on.

    • Thank you, ClaytonA! This is about keeping control of something the SG’s created, nurtured, and made bloom. :)

    • If it was about control, why didn’t the SGs file their ownership application back in 2004?

  18. Cascadia Cup Matches (full match list):
    Owned by the fans.
    3/16 Seattle v Portland 6 PM
    5/18 Vancouver v Portland TBD
    6/8 Seattle v Vancouver 1 PM
    7/6 Vancouver v Seattle 8 PM
    8/3 Portland v Vancouver 8 PM
    8/25 Seattle v Portland 7 PM
    10/6 Vancouver v Portland TBD
    10/9 Seattle v Vancouver 7 PM
    10/13 Portland v Seattle 6 PM

  19. I’m going to wait and see what MLS does with this before I get outraged. It’s also possible they do absolutely nothing at all with it, having only secured the rights intellectually with no plan to “make shirts” or anything.

    I think we’re naive if we think MLS should have consulted us first if it was about protecting us from outside parties. What’s to consult about? They run a business, we’re fans. We love our teams but do not expect them to consult us about player moves or concession prices. We don’t have to worry about using the name “Cascadia Cup” because we’re not a business entity. We’re fans . MLS doesn’t have the same casual rights and if they want to be able to put those “Cascadia Cup” banners on MLSsoccer.com during Rivalry week, they need rights to do so.

    Everyone’s first reaction is to think it’s a malicious money-grab. At worst MLS raises the Cascadia Cup profile. At best they do nothing and everyone is intellectually protected. Until we see MLS take malicious action with this, how can we assume their intent was malicious?

    • If a neighbor starts putting up a fence along your property without mentioning it or even discussing it with you before hand, is it really for both of your goods?

      • Your complaint is one about courtesy then, not ownership? I would agree with you there, it was rude of MLS to not speak with SGs regarding the issue before taking action.

        But the vitriol everyone is spewing over it? Seems so unfounded and based in speculation.

    • Trying to take ownership of something that clearly does not belong to them is already a malicious act. If they were only looking out for the SGs, they should have said something to the effect of, “Hey, SGs…you have a really marketable product in the Cascadia Cup and we see that it has yet to be trademarked. We expect your rivalry to continue to grow in popularity around the league and also the rest of the world. We think, it would be in your best interest to take action to protect your creation. Please let us know if you need any assistance. Love, MLS.”

      • If SGs owned the trademark, MLS would have to pay SGs to use the name or SGs could legally issue a “cease and desist” letter to MLS. Is that really what we want? To charge MLS to give us free advertising for our competition that MLS receives no direct money for? It benefits everyone, raising awareness of the Cascadia Cup.

        Frankly neither of those situations makes as much sense as MLS having the right to use “Cascadia Cup” on it’s website and TV commercials without paying us royalties.

        At the end of the day is this about intellectual ownership or trying to make a buck? Sounds crazy to think it’s the fans trying to do the latter and MLS the former. Oh the irony.