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A Tradition Unlike Any Other® - The Masters® at Augusta National®
by Stites & Harbison, PLLC
Hi everyone! You're favorite Trademarkologist-in-training is back! I apologize for not blogging last month but my husband, Chris, and I were at the 2018 Masters TournamentÂ® in Augusta, Georgia! If that's not a "get-out-of-work-free card" then I don't know what is!
Tickets to the MastersÂ® have been referred to as some of the toughest tickets to score in all of sports, perhaps only rivaling tickets to the NFL Super Bowl. Aside from corporate sponsorships, being a PGA pro, and connections with people in high places, most people rely on the MastersÂ® ticket lottery system (like me). Every year hundreds of thousands of people enter the lottery for tickets to the tournament and practice rounds and then wait in great anticipation to see if the odds were in their favor. Some people wait an entire lifetime for the opportunity to visit the hallowed grounds of Augusta National Golf ClubÂ®, where the MastersÂ® is played â and trust me, it's worth the wait!
The best way to describe Augusta NationalÂ® is just pure horticultural perfection. Regardless of whether you are a golf fan, there is no denying the unmatched beauty that exists there, and, every year, during the first week in April, the top golfers in the world converge to play in the Masters TournamentÂ® and compete to win a coveted Green JacketÂ®.
(photo obtained from USPTO)
The powerhouse institution behind all of these iconic golf places, logos, and names is Augusta National, Inc. ("ANI"). ANI owns all trademarks, service marks, trade names, trade dress, and copyrights relating to Augusta National Golf ClubÂ® and the MastersÂ®. Talk about a valuable and expansive trademark portfolio!
In addition to owning countless trademarks, including AUGUSTA NATIONAL GOLF CLUB, MASTERS, MASTERS TOURNAMENT, GREEN JACKET, AMEN CORNER, and A TRADITION UNLIKE ANY OTHER, ANI has also been very active in its claim of rights and enforcement efforts. ANI has not been shy when it comes to clearly defining what use is safe in the fairway and what is out of bounds. Just take a look at the disclaimers on its website. ANI takes it exclusive trademark rights very seriously!
For example, you can only purchase MastersÂ® merchandise and memorabilia at the Augusta National Golf ShopÂ® (yes, that's trademarked too!). This explains why most people in the check-out-line are purchasing hundreds or thousands of dollars' worth of items â racking up for friends, family, Christmas gifts, etc. Seeing as tickets to the tournament are elusive, you've gotta' stock up and take advantage of the fabulous shopping when you get the chance! (Don't worry â I did) The golf shop is even almost as magical as the course itself â check out their promotional video.
Recently, ANI brought a federal lawsuit against a Florida-based online auction site that was selling the famed Green JacketsÂ® to people who did not in fact win the MastersÂ®. In fact, the policy, customs, and rules of the Masters TournamentÂ® provide that the Green JacketÂ® presented to the winner of the tournament cannot be removed from the course except during the first year following its presentation. All other times it must be stored on ANI's premises and can only be worn on the course and during the annual tournament. In this particular lawsuit, ANI wants the site shut down and claims that the items, regardless of whether they are stolen or fake replicas, infringe their trademark rights. In addition to seeking injunctive relief, ANI, in its take no prisoners way, is also seeking monetary damages in the form of restitution, enhanced damages, punitive damages, liquidated damages, and its attorneys' fees and costs.
The case is still ongoing and I will report back if there are further developments. All in all, ANI and the MastersÂ® serve as a great lesson that securing federally registered trademarks and exclusivity is a powerful tool if you want to develop and protect your brands for generations to come.