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Who Owns NY Yankees’ Top Hat and Bat?

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Yankees Clubhouse Shop by Tomas Fano on Flickr

Yankees Clubhouse Shop by Tomas Fano on Flickr

The New York Yankees’ logo has been the same for as long as most of us can remember, but one New York woman claims that it was minus one top hat before her uncle came up with it in 1936.

In fact, Tanit Buday has filed a federal lawsuit against the baseball organization seeking damages for unjust enrichment, copyright infringement, and breach of contract on behalf of Kenneth Timur, who she claims designed the “top hat and bat” logo at the request of the Yankees’ owner at the time, Jacob Ruppert.

Buday alleges that Ruppert got the design through her aunt, Timur’s sister and a manicurist whose customers included Ruppert.  According to Buday, her uncle was a graphic artist and was commissioned by Ruppert for the design but received “no remuneration or recognition for his creation of this Yankees Top Hat Logo.”

The claim alleges that Timur did request compensation twice for his work int he 1950s, but he didn’t have the means to press the issue against the “rich and powerful Yankees.” Buday’s complaint includes 28 pages of attachments, including an analysis of the logo by an art expert.

The Yankees logo has long been credited to the late sports artist Henry Alonzo “Lon” Keller, but that hasn’t stopped various claims by others from coming up over the years regarding its origin. In 2009, the family of Sam Friedman, an artist at the “21” Club where then-Yankees’ owner Dan Topping was a frequent client, claimed that the logo was first drawn by Friedman on a bar napkin in 1947.

What do the Bronx Bombers have to say about the most recent lawsuit? Spokeswoman Alice McGillioin quipped, “This is a wonderful country where anybody can sue for anything, even when the allegations are over 70 years old.”

Sounds like the Yankees aren’t up for playing ball on this one — but it’s a great reminder to all you artists out there to stake out your claims on your work with copyright registration from the start.

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April 20th, 2011 at 10:27 am