When a squirrel bounded through the batter’s box during the St. Louis Cardinals’ 2011 postseason, an array of Rally Squirrel merchandise quickly sprang up.
The rodent – and all that he wrought – is a memory now, as the Cardinals have made it to another World Series, this time against the Boston Red Sox. But a trademark dispute lingers at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
The Cardinals are contesting an application for a federal trademark on the Rally Squirrel for shirts and other memorabilia by suburban St. Louis businessman Phil Rideout, an application filed in October 2011 as the team marched toward a World Series title.
Rideout said he wanted to build a sports brand around the Rally Squirrel, but the Cardinals said in their December 2012 opposition filing that the Rally Squirrel had become an “integral part” of the team’s identity. The two parties are trying to negotiate a settlement.
Rideout was among many shirt manufacturers who got in on the squirrel action two years ago, which, at the time, was seen as fair game because no one clearly owned the rights to the animal, unlike other protected marks such as the team’s logo.
The Cardinals also began marketing squirrel merchandise, such as a T-shirt with the slogan “Got Squirrel?” and even handed out squirrel-related rally towels to 40,000 fans at a 2011 National League Championship Series game against the Brewers.
The Cardinals, in their filing, argued that Rideout is trying to trade on the goodwill of the team and its World Series victory that year.
Cardinals spokesman Ron Watermon said the team doesn’t typically comment on legal matters. But he said in an email to the newspaper that the “Cardinals Rally Squirrel is alive and well.”
Rideout did not return requests for comment. His attorney declined to comment specifically on the case.
Speaking generally, attorney David Howard said a federal trademark would not necessarily trump “common law” trademarks for people who actively use the mark in a certain geographic region.