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Using A Dead/Cancelled Logo Trademark On Merchandise?


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I've been attempting for a proper answer to this in the forum and have only a few mentions here and there.

I'm wanting to know the legal issues regarding the use of trademark logos that have since been either CANCELLED or DEAD according to the USPTO when it comes to selling merchandise that bear the logo.

I understand that there are more than a few websites out there, such as throwbackmax.com, that have an inventory of shirts using logos from the USFL/WFL all the way to the smaller minor league teams that have since folded. Clearly someone commissioned and designed these logos in the first place and I understand your trademarks are protected under common law so I'm wondering why at least those who designed, for example the Pittsburgh Maulers logo, aren't sending a cease and desist letter to ThrowbackMax. Is it just a matter of they do not care or do they not have the proper legal backing in order to enforce a cease and desist letter?

If the original trademark owner does not show continued use of the logo (one of the stipulations of common law) then does that mean the trademark has fallen into a weird grey area of public domain until someone reactivates the trademark with the USPTO. Throwback Max obviously doesn't own most if not all of these logo trademarks so does that mean he has zero legal grounds to prevent another t-shirt maker from using the same DEAD/CANCELLED trademark on an identical shirt.

Also, if for example someone does reactive the Pittsburgh Maulers trademark well after ThrowbackMax (not trying to pick on them, just using them as an example of a merchandise maker who uses dead/cancelled logo trademarks) has begun to sell shirts with the Pittsburgh Maulers logo on it then does ThrowbackMax have any grounds to continue making the shirt or must they cease and desist that particular shirt.

I know Classic Ink Inc a few years ago was found to have own an assortment of random defunct logos for teams like the Puerto Rico Coquis and Memphis Southmen of which ThrowbackMax still has shirts bearing these logos yet they enforced their trademarks successfully in court for the Chicago Sting and Tampa Bay Rowdies trademarks before the NASL bought them back.

Any advice would be much appreciated.

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  • 6 months later...

Trademarks aren't the only concern. In fact, they aren't the main concern. Copyrights are.

Trademarks expire after a relatively short period of time, whereas copyrights exist for many decades (over a century in some more modern cases).

Anyone selling product featuring an allegedly 'expired' logo is either (a) playing with fire and hoping they aren't burned, or (B) someone who's made a deal with whomever holds the copyright to the mark. An expired trademark means nothing really.

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