October 20, 2022 – While the New York Yankees are in the middle of postseason baseball, a panel of judges at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) is in the middle of a trademark application opposition case involving Yankees’ star outfielder, Aaron Judge. 
Judge, who most recently broke the American League record for the most homeruns in a single season, is well-known by some of his catchphrases, including “All Rise” and “Here Comes The Judge.”  However, the TTAB panel may very well decide to grant the trademark rights to these slogans to the original applicant, Michael Chisena. 
On July 14, 2017, following Judge’s historic victory in the MLB All Star Homerun Derby, Chisena filed trademark applications for “ALL RISE” and “HERE COMES THE JUDGE” in connection with several types of clothing, including t-shirts and hats.  Chisena then began making and selling blue and white t-shirts bearing the marks.  Chisena maintains that he had been considering creating merchandise and trademarking these phrases as early as 2012 to 2015, albeit in connection with “cross-marketing” his previously patented batting practice tees with a “baseball-themed apparel line of clothing.”
Shortly thereafter, Judge and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), the MLB Players’ union, filed notices of opposition with the TTAB, challenging Chisena’s trademark applications on multiple grounds, including false suggestion of connection with a person, and consisting of a person’s name without written consent from that person.  Judge and the MLBPA claim that they used the trademarks first, even though Chisena filed the trademark applications first. 
After a four-year legal battle the case is close to a conclusion.  Judge and the MLBPA submitted extensive evidence that supports Judge’s rights in the trademarks, including use of the Marks in connection with merchandise licensing, various apparel, headwear, patches, and even bobblehead dolls.  They further allege “[g]iven the fame and recognition of Judge, the public would understand and recognize [Chisena’s] Mark in connection with [Chisena’s] Goods as identifying Judge and reasonably assume there is a connection between [Chisena’s] Mark and Judge.” 
Whether these prior uses technically function as trademarks is one of the questions the TTAB panel must decide.  Judge and the MLBPA argue that because the trademarks have been used in numerous apparel designs to specifically reference Judge, they indicate that the goods ultimately come from him. Regardless, there is a chance that the TTAB panel may decide in Chisena’s favor simply because he filed his trademark application first. 
It would seem that Judge, who is the odds-on favorite for AL MVP this season, is a valuable asset both on and off the field.  His name sells tickets and merchandise, and losing the rights to the trademarks would have a serious impact on merchandise revenue.  This trademark litigation highlights the importance of an individual or brand recognizing the value in their potential trademarks and the necessity to promptly file for trademark registrations to protect their brand’s image and goodwill.  You don’t want to have your own marks taken out from under you by an opportunistic early filer.
The Intellectual Property team at Renzulli Law Firm is experienced with all aspects of trademarks in the firearms industry, from registration to enforcement and litigation.  We are ready to answer any questions you may have or provide advice on strengthening your brand and intellectual property portfolio.  In the meantime, good luck to Judge and the Yankees in the ALCS!
Renzulli Law Firm, LLP will continue to monitor intellectual property related litigation and events around the country.  If you have any questions concerning intellectual property or related litigation, please contact John F. Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.