NY Yankees Oppose "THE HOUSE THAT JUICE BUILT"; Applicants Assert Parody Defense
Here we go again with another case for our Hot Stove League collection. The New York Yankees have opposed two applications for the mark THE HOUSE THAT JUICE BUILT for "T-shirts, baseball caps, hats, jackets, and sweatshirts," and for "mugs," as well as a third application for the design mark shown below left for those same clothing items. The Yankees claim likelihood of confusion and dilution, disparagement, immorality, and false association (although they do not specifically cite any of the sections of the Trademark Act). New York Yankee Partnership v. Steven Lore and Jet Products and Services, Inc., Opposition No. 91189692.
Of course, baseball fans know that Yankee Stadium is often referred to as "The House That Ruth Built," and they are quite familiar with the Yankees' "top hat" logo (shown above right). The Yankees are not amused by these three applications:
"17. The term "juice" is often used as a vulgar, slang euphemism to refer to the consumption of alcohol or illegal anabolic steroids, including by injection into the body using a hypodermic needle.
18. Upon information and belief, Applicants’ Marks, which, together, incorporate the word “juice” or the image of a hypodermic needle in conjunction with well-known components of Opposer’s Marks, and which closely resemble the well-known Opposer’s Marks, are intended, and will be understood to be, an offensive reference to the consumption of alcohol or illegal anabolic steroids, and to refer to or suggest an affiliation or association with Opposer and the Club."
Applicants have filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that the Yankees have "failed to state a claim under the Lanham Act." According to Applicants, the opposed marks are non-offending parodies whose primary purpose is "to create public awareness about drug use and, in a sense, to shame Opposer and its organization for allegedly using anabolic steroids and tolerating the use of anabolic steroids."
The Yankees argue that the notice of opposition states proper claims for relief under the Lanham Act, and that parody is not a per se defense but rather one that must be resolved as part of the likelihood of confusion analysis. Moreover, the Yankees assert, First Amendment arguments are irrelevant in a TTAB proceeding, where registration and not use is at issue.
How do you think this will come out? I'm on pin(stripes) and needles!
TTABlog note: For recent TTAB parody cases, see HARRY POTHEAD (here), IVY LEAGRO (here), LESSBUCKS COFFEE (here), and SEX ROD (here), in all of which a parody defense failed.
Text Copyright John L. Welch 2009.