During the past year, the Lightning won the Stanley Cup, the Rays made it to the World Series, and the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl. The teams gave all of us in South Florida something to cheer for in the midst of the pandemic. And now they are giving the intellectual property world an equally exciting match to watch.
A handful of fans that are eager to cash in on their city’s sporting success have attempted to trademark the phrase “Champa Bay.” The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) must now decide which one of them — if any — owns the mark.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, three different people have filed paperwork with the USPTO seeking acknowledgment that they own the Champa Bay trademark.
Patrick Hanlon filed first. In late September, after the Lightning reached the Stanley Cup finals, Hanlon filed an application noting, “Champa Bay could be a good brand for an ‘alcoholic beverage produced from a brewed malt base with natural flavors.’” When the Times asked what else he had planned for the trademark he said, “Gotta be honest: I haven’t put a lot of thought into it.”
In October, likely around the time the Rays were winning the American League Championship, Lou Tutko also filed a trademark application for the phrase “Champa Bay.” According to the Times, Tutko is tight-lipped about his plans.
The third application was filed by Cody DeWitt in December. Although this was the last application filed, DeWitt and a group of friends have arguably done the most to put the phrase Champa Bay into commerce. Last fall, DeWitt and a group of friends started a company called Champa Bay LLC, claimed a bunch of @champabay social media properties, and began selling Champa Bay merchandise.
It’s impossible to know from the few details in the newspaper which of the three applicants will be successful at the USPTO. Timing, plans for the use of the mark, and the quality of their applications all matter.
This is why we urge creators and business owners to work with our experienced trademark attorneys if they think they have a great idea they want to legally claim. It is not just the timing but the quality of a trademark application that makes it successful.
It is also important to note that the applicant who ends up winning the Champa Bay trademark is not guaranteed financial success. A trademark is only a small part of a successful business strategy. It is what you do with the mark that matters.
The history of Champa Bay is proof of this. According to the Times, “A month after the Bucs won their first Super Bowl in 2003, a man named Ron Boucher paid $670 to trademark the phrase, complete with a snazzy, professional-looking logo. He held the trademark until 2012 when, according to federal records, he failed to file paperwork to keep it going. Only during this recent championship run did [he] realize he no longer held the Champa Bay trademark.”
If Boucher had invested time and attention into his trademark, he might have been quite successful with it. Instead, it was forgotten about and is now being claimed by others.
The Lomnitzer Law Firm, P.A., is South Florida’s premier intellectual property legal practice. If you have an idea you need help launching, we are here for you. Let us handle the legal issues while you work on becoming a Champa-ion.