#Footnotes is Rachelle Riddle's weekly Explainer column about what's going on beneath the surface of the world of gaming.
The #Overwatch League is one of #Blizzard's latest ventures, announced last year at BlizzCon. It's intended to be a professional esports league with permanent teams in league placements, and there's a buy-in of $20 million in urban markets like Los Angeles or New York City. But, one day before the trademark registration was set to go through, the Major League Baseball association filed an extension to oppose the Overwatch League's logo.
Trademark Law And Logos
When trademarks are filed, they're published in a newsletter by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. There is a 30 day period where they can be contested, either with an opposition or an extension to file an opposition. If nothing happens within that period, the trademark registration moves on towards completion. Opposition to logos can stem from consumer confusion or harm to another party. From then on it's a matter of deciding whether or not the two logos will cause confusion from consumers between the two products or whether it might harm the other party's business.
Why Would MLB Care about Overwatch?
There are a few reasons why the MLB would concern themselves with the Overwatch League. One is that they may believe the similarities between the logos could cause consumers to think that #OverwatchLeague is connected to MLB or that MLB approves of the esport. By having similar logos, MLB may have thought consumers would assume they were participating in the #esports league. It's also possible this was merely an attempt to throw their money and weight around, to remind video games that they are still a top dog in the realm of entertainment. Esports is on the rise and, while it doesn't compare yet to the massive industry of traditional sports, MLB may feel threatened by esports encroaching on the market.
Do They Have A Case?
While the logos are arguably similar, it's hard to make a case that they are similar enough to cause confusion between the two. They both contain a silhouette and two contrasting colors, but the similarities end there. The silhouettes are in different positions and the background colors are not alike. There's very little way that sports fans will confuse a grey and orange logo with a blue and red one.
If anything, the MLB would want to be concerned with the many other logos which use the same two colors, even in their own realm of sports. The National Basketball Association, Major League Gaming, and AMA Motocross all use the white silhouette with blue on the left and red on the right. Major League Gaming is perhaps the most infringing, using the same design, colors, and naming convention. Though MLG changed logos a couple years back from the one shown to a smaller square version, it's still the same blue, red, and white silhouette.
The Result Of The Trademark Dispute
We'll never know what the MLB wanted or contested, because the filing date for the 90 day extension came and went on July 26 without further opposition. The MLB may have worked out a settlement with the Overwatch League to sweep the whole thing under the rug. Or they may have backed off after the story picked up attention. A lot of times filings like these are automatic and if companies don't protect their trademarks or copyright, they stand a chance of losing it. It's possible that the MLB decided the trademark wasn't worth opposing after all.