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.