The Toronto Maple Leafs are mulling an attempt to send Snoop Dogg's latest trademark application up in smoke.
The hockey team's parent company has bought itself time to decide whether to formally oppose the rapper's logo for his marijuana company, Leafs by Snoop.
Calvin Broadus, the rapper more commonly known as Snoop Dogg, filed a trademark application for Leafs by Snoop with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Nov. 17. According to the application, the trademark – which is featured on Snoop Dogg's marijuana product line sold in Colorado – includes the words Leafs by Snoop "presented on three lines and superimposed over a golden leaf design."
Kelley Lynch, a lawyer with NHL Enterprises, filed a 90-day request for extension of time on behalf of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. to investigate Snoop Dogg's trademark registration. The extension request was granted on June 8, the day before the window for opposition applications was set to expire.
Dave Haggith, a spokesperson for MLSE, which owns the Leafs and other sports franchises, said the organization has no comment about the application. Snoop Dogg's lawyer Lawrence Apolzon did not respond to a request for comment.
Eric Macramalla, a partner at Gowling WLG who focuses on trademark litigation, said parties generally seek an extension of time to try and settle a potential trademark dispute and avoid costly court proceedings.
"It's quite common for brand owners to oppose a trademark application as part of an overall strategy to get others to not use their brand in the marketplace," Mr. Macramalla said. "Ultimately, what MLSE is doing here is entirely reasonable."
Mr. Macramalla could not speculate on whether MLSE will pursue legal action, which is more comprehensive and broader than the administrative proceedings related to trademark registration. If MLSE decides it doesn't want to roll with the logo, Mr. Macramalla says they would likely rely on arguments about brand confusion and dilution.
"MLSE would have to establish that consumers are likely to be confused that the products Snoop is offering are affiliated with or endorsed by the Leafs," Mr. Macramalla said. "They can also allege that Snoop's marque is going to dilute the strength of the Leafs marque in the U.S."
Snoop Dogg previously filed a trademark application in January, 2015, for the Leafs by Snoop logo to use it on clothing, including hats, shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies. That trademark application was abandoned in November.
MLSE has previously engaged in legal battles over the Maple Leafs brand.
In the summer of 2011, MLSE filed a court injunction against Ryerson University, demanding that the school stop using the name Maple Leaf Gardens in connection with the redeveloped arena that was once home to the Maple Leafs. MLSE accused Ryerson and Loblaw, which opened a grocery store on the main floor of the building, of infringing on its trademark by using the historic name in promotional materials. Faced with the lawsuit, the school decided to use a different name – the Mattamy Athletic Centre – for the historic site.
The NHL also has a history of protecting the trademarks of its hockey teams.
In 2000, the NHL and the Minnesota Wild launched a legal challenge over the Canadian Wildlife Federation's Wild magazine, a publication aimed to educate children about nature. The NHL also demanded $89,000 from a Montreal restaurant owner in 2011 for putting up a sign showing a Middle Eastern man in a red-and-white Canadiens jersey slicing up shawarma.
A similar application for an extension of time was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on June 14 on behalf of the Chicago Blackhawks over the trademark registration of Hawktown Heroes by a company called Hawktown Teas.