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Is MLS Offside in Trademark Moves?

Reaction in the Pacific Northwest has been as swift as it's been vitriolic among supporters groups in the region after news came out earlier this week that Major League Soccer has submitted application to trademark, and thus claim ownership of, the name Cascadia Cup - the trophy competition jointly founded in 2004 by supporters groups backing the Vancouver Whitecaps, Seattle Sounders, and the Portland Timbers, in their pre-MLS days.

And while quite naturally the focus of attention in Vancouver has been on the Cascadia Cup trademark application, which has been filed in Canada, few are aware that it is only one of a number of similar filings made on or about December 18, 2012 by Major League Soccer in the US which seek to trademark additional rivalry cup names including: Trillium Cup (Columbus and Toronto), Texas Derby (Houston and Dallas), Rocky Mountain Cup (Salt Lake and Denver), and Brimstone Cup (Chicago and Dallas). These applications can be viewed at the United States Patent and Trademark Office website.

For its part, MLS has stated that the move to trademark the Cascadia Cup name is a protective measure, and that "A registered trademark would put Major League Soccer in a position to protect the brand from exploitation by parties unaffiliated with the League and its supporters." The full statement can be read here, at

The league statement acknowledges the concerns raised by three Cascadian supporters groups with regard to how the trademark will be managed, and says that MLS intends to meet with them soon.

At issue, among other things of course, is control of merchandising, and any potential sponsorship deals connected with the name Cascadia Cup. And with such valuable stakes on the table, members of the Southsiders, Timbers Army, and Emerald City Supporters are wary - suspicious that the MLS moves are less based on benevolence than self-interest.

The question arises as to why the MLS chose to act unilaterally, and with no prior consultation with the supporters groups involved.

Yesterday, the following statement was issued on the Southsiders' website:

"The supporters groups in Seattle, Portland and Vancouver jointly oppose Major League Soccer’s claim of ownership of the Cascadia Cup trademark.The three supporters groups have jointly used the Cascadia Cup mark for many years and have been the rightful owners of the mark. In response to recent statements and actions by MLS, the supporters groups recently formed a new entity, the Cascadia Cup Council, which acquired the supporters’ groups trademark rights in the Cascadia Cup mark.The Cascadia Cup Council will ensure that the mark remains in the hands of the very supporters who created it.

The Cascadia Cup Council recently filed a U.S. federal trademark registration application for the Cascadia Cup mark, and a registration application will likely be filed in Canada as well. The Cascadia Cup Council also intends to formally oppose Major League Soccer’s attempt to register the trademark that the public recognizes as a fan-created competition that predates Major League Soccer in Vancouver, Portland or Seattle.

Not only does the Cascadia Cup Council believe they rightfully own the trademark to Cascadia Cup but they also are of the belief they are the appropriate entity to protect the mark from third parties that are unaffiliated with the supporters groups in the Pacific Northwest."

What do you think?