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MLB Contests Sir Peter Blake Trust’s Red Socks Day Trademark

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Red Socks v. Red Sox

Red Socks v. Red Sox (images from New Zealand Intellectual Property Office website)

Major League Baseball (MLB) is contesting the New Zealand trademark registration of Sir Peter Blake Trust’s annual fundraising drive called Red Socks Day because it claims “Red Socks” is too close to the Boston Red Sox franchise and would infringe on MLB’s intellectual property rights.

Red Socks Day is held in honor of Sir Peter Blake, a yachtsman and environmentalist from New Zealand who famously wore red socks for luck; supporters of Sir Peter Blake during the 1995 America’s Cup race also wore red socks, which “have become a symbol of kiwi spirit and Red Socks Day is a chance to celebrate leadership in action, what it means to be a New Zealander, and to remember a kiwi legend.”

From the Sir Peter Blake Trust website:

Sir Peter Blake was tragically killed on December 5th 2001, and ten years on the Trust strives to keep his memory, spirit and values alive for future generations of New Zealanders. Red Socks Day is an opportunity to remember this fallen hero and the contribution he made to our nation and our planet, and to re-tell his story for those who were too young to remember.

Every year, hundreds of schools, businesses, organisations and community groups around New Zealand honour Sir Peter’s life and legacy on Red Socks Day, and use the day as an opportunity to celebrate their leaders, and what it means to be a member of their communities. These events take many forms – from workshops and special assemblies, launches and awards, to ‘red days’, Red Socks Day fashion parades, Guinness World Record attempts and community service days – and can be both public and in-house events. The Trust encourages all those who take part to celebrate in ways that reflect their own vision, values and special characteristics – and to have a great time doing it!

The name “Sir Peter Blake’s Red Socks” is already registered as a trademark in New Zealand, and, according to a search of the New Zealand Intellectual Property Office database, there was also opposition to that registration–which was unsuccessful. Records available to the public do not specify who opposed it.

“Boston Red Sox,” “Red Sox,” and the team’s logo are also all registered in New Zealand as well.

As told to the Sunday Star-Times, Shelley Campbell, the chief executive of the Sir Peter Blake Trust, “MLB Properties earlier indicated it is willing to co-exist with the trust, and we are optimistic this will be the case.”

Although there has been no reported comment by MLB, the league probably hopes this will happen as well; they probably aren’t convincing many kiwis to watch American baseball with such opposition involving a kiwi hero’s legacy.

It’s not clear from publicly available documents, but it may be that a slight change of the Red Socks Day logo is what MLB is looking for as the pair of red socks with a double circle that contains all capital letters in writing just may be considered confusing enough to a casual observer to constitute trademark infringement (see above right).

What do you think? Is MLB correct in protecting its trademark in New Zealand against Red Socks Day? Or is this ball out of reach?

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February 27th, 2012 at 6:06 pm