A's Trademarks

There was some news released today that the Athletics had registered “Sacramento A’s” and “Sacramento Athletics” for trademark status despite saying they would be a team without a city during their stay in Sac. This has led some to believe that they’re laying the groundwork for another parallel path just in case (when) Las Vegas falls apart.

I did a little digging and found some other interesting tidbits, though. The phrase “Oakland Athletics” hasn’t been an active trademark since 1995. The specific terms of “Oakland Athletics A’s” and “A’s Oakland Athletics” are owned by the Athletics Investment Group. On November 17, 2022 the team filed an application for “Oakland Athletics” which was only published for opposition March 12, 2024 and remains pending. Throughout the process the team has had to make amendments to their trademark application mostly because “Oakland” is geographical and “Athletics” is generic so there are issues in trademarking those two words together.

What is interesting is that, as of April 5, 2024, there has been no application to trademark Las Vegas Athletics in any fashion from the Athletics Investment Group. The fan group, Last Dive Bar, has a pending application to cover merchandise of “Las Vegas Athletics” which was submitted in March, 2024.

There are two pending trademarks for Las Vegas A’s/Las Vegas Athletics as a baseball team but they were submitted by Ray Yocke who, as far as I can tell, has nothing to do with the A’s but who used to work in the front office of the Warriors. He is presumably hoping to be sitting on these trademarks when the AIG finally files but it’s unclear how he’ll establish any type of right to this trademark and it won’t actually go through. He follows me on Twitter so hopefully he can provide some clarity as to why he applied for these trademarks.

Another Las Vegas A’s/Athletics trademark was registered for clothing/merch by a bay area realtor. His application is already facing hurdles as it was flagged for not being related to the organization it represents – essentially the government is saying, you’re not the A’s so why do you get this trademark. The application is still active, though, as he has an opportunity to respond.

The Last Dive Bar and Ray Yocke applications are likely to face the same actions but it won’t likely be soon and, in the meantime, could really gum up the Athletics Investment Group’s ability to trademark the Las Vegas Athletics.

This all brings up more questions than answers. If they have no intention of branding as a Sacramento team, why make the trademark? If you already own an “Athletics” trademark, you are covered. Why did all of these other people submit applications for Las Vegas Athletics before the team did? The A’s filed for Sacramento the day after it was announced but here we are over a year past the relocation announcement and two years after the parallel paths announcement and they still haven’t submitted an application?

Are the A’s planning to continue the Athletics branding in Las Vegas? The Athletics Investment Group has no non-A’s trademarks pending and there are no pending trademarks that include Las Vegas that hint at another baseball team name. So, the A’s are actively litigating trademarks in Oakland (their newly abandoned home), Sacramento (their temporary, unmentioned home) but not Las Vegas (their future home for at least 30 years). Something seems off. I’m going to keep my eyes on this for a while.

Welp, the A’s have filed for trademarks of Las Vegas branding since I wrote the first piece. The tricky thing is, they applied BEFORE the owners voted to approve relocation in another country so that they could backdate their American application which seems shady but it’s not uncommon. Here are all the pending transactions for the Athletics Investment Group.

A sorta related/unrelated tangent but I once had to fight a trademark case related to the A’s.

Back when I was hosting the “Swingin’ A’s” podcast, I received a cease and desist from Time Warner who had recently purchased Fansided where I started the Swingin’ A’s podcast. As I was no longer associated with the site, they insisted that I didn’t have the right to use their trademark.

I responded to the lawyers by letting them know that “Swingin’ A’s” wasn’t a trademark owned by Time Warner and had, in fact, it was a dead trademark that even the A’s didn’t own any more. I also pointed out that the A’s sold T-shirts and regularly used that mark in their branding so if anyone had an issue with it, it should probably be the team. Seeing as how the team allowed their players and front office staff to speak with me, I think they were cool with it.

Time Warner’s lawyers responded by trying to claim that they held the mark simply because they had the domain to which I replied, “nope”. That’s not how that works at all. There are cases where the domain ownership could be used as evidence of your trademark usage while applying for trademark protection but one does not automatically guarantee the other.

Eventually Time Warner’s lawyers stopped replying to me and I released a few more podcast episodes, including my first interview with Dave Kaval, and Fansided changed the name of the Swingin’ A’s website to White Cleat Beat.

I knew right away, even with very limited knowledge of trademark law, that the C&D was just a hopeful scare tactic to get me to do what they wanted and they had to know I didn’t have the funds to fight Time Warner in court over the issue of my podcast title so the fact that they let it go without any fight felt like a victory for me since I didn’t pay a cent to a lawyer but they ate into their retainer.