Vegas Golden Knights may turn out to be a great name but owner Bill Foley has run into naming problems.
What is in a name? That was a question once posed by the old bard himself, William Shakespeare if you believe Shakespeare was solely responsible for his work centuries ago. But in sports, it turns out, a lot of money.
Almost 30 years ago, then Major League Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth held court one spring day at the Helmsley Palace in midtown Manhattan. Ueberroth’s marketing department had just struck a multimillion dollar partnership agreement with a Japanese film company and Ueberroth was talking as we was waiting for everyone who was going to be involved in the formal announcement to arrive for the news conference.
Ueberroth asked a very simple question. What is the most valuable possession that a league or a franchise has? The answer was not players, coaches, managers, TV-radio contracts or fans. Ueberroth quickly answered the question.
It is the logo and Ueberroth added that a league or a franchise has to do everything in the league or franchise’s power to protect the logo.
Under Ueberroth, Major League Baseball became very protective of not only the then 26 active franchises logos but also logos of defunct businesses like the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Walter O’Malley took his Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles after the 1957 season but that didn’t mean the Brooklyn Dodgers name or logo disappeared. More than three decades after the O’Malley move Major League Baseball was in court suing the owner of the Brooklyn Dodger Sports Bar and Restaurant over the name Brooklyn Dodger. Major League Baseball lost the suit after a Manhattan judge ruled that O’Malley gave up exclusive rights to the name when he moved the team to Los Angeles.
In 1986, Ueberroth’s second year as Major League Baseball Commissioner, MLB took in about $200 million licensing various Major League Baseball and Major League Baseball team logos. In 1991, that number rose to $2 billion.
The Los Angeles Dodgers lost the case because no one bothered to trademark the Brooklyn Dodger name. Sports executives followed the case and likely vowed never to allow anything that could be trademarked to not be trademarked.
Don’t mess with any sports logo if it was been trademarked.