Some say that it might be ‘political correctness’ gone a bit too far; some say that the United States Patent and Trademark (USPTO) office was right on the mark.
On Tuesday, the USPTO canceled the New York Metropolitans’ trademark registration; a move that won’t force the National League team to change its name but fuels the intense fight by opponents to eliminate what they view as a classist slur against “farming communities, suburban areas, and small towns across America”.
Originally, the Metropolitan Club (the New York Metropolitans or the Mets) was a 19th-century professional baseball team that played in New York City from 1880 to 1887. Metropolitan Baseball Club of New York was the name originally chosen in 1960 for the current day New York Mets franchise.
The 11-page decision by the Administrative Law Judge Stanzel Orford of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board said the team’s name and logo are disparaging to “rural areas” around the nation. It dilutes the Metropolitans’ legal protection against infringement and hinders the team’s ability to block counterfeit merchandise from entering the country.
But its effect is largely symbolic. The ruling cannot stop the team from selling T-shirts, beer glasses, headbands and license-plate holders with the moniker or keep the team from trying to defend itself against others who try to profit from the logo. And the trademark registrations will remain effective during any appeal process.
Federal trademark law does not permit registration of trademarks that “may disparage” individuals or groups or “bring them into contempt or disrepute.” Brandon Lance Feldstein, the Executive Director of the sports law program at Princeton University, said the ruling could affect the view of league officials and owners of other national league franchises.
“Such teams as the Pirates, the Yankees and the Brewers could be in jeopardy, too,” said Feldstein. “These names could be construed as as being disparaging to those of British descent traveled on ships bearing skull and cross bones; those related to soldiers who fought for the Union Army in the Civil War; or peer drinkers respectively.”