August 25, 2014

Blue Jays Don't Fly Together: Toronto Blue Jays Oppose Creighton's Bluejay

As a sports enthusiast, I like to think I'm relatively familiar with all the professional logos and collegiate logos. I also like to think that I, like most people, am rather adept at distinguishing between all the cardinals, panthers, eagles, Indians, and tigers logos out there. It seems to be pretty common for there to be a college version of a mascot and also a professional version of a mascot. For instance, we've got the Carolina Panthers and also the Pittsburgh Panthers, and we've got the Louisville Cardinals and the St. Louis Cardinals. For years, we've also had a coexistence of the Creighton University bluejays and the Toronto Blue Jays, and for years these two bluejay versions flew peaceably together.

However, when Creighton University flew from the Missouri Valley Conference to the Big East, it simultaneously unveiled an updated bluejay logo, which Toronto feels is simply too close to its blue jay logo. Take a look:

Creighton Blue Jay
Creighton University's new bluejay logo
Toronto Blue Jay
The Toronto Blue Jay logo

Creighton filed an application to register the new logo with the USPTO for use on or in connection with athletic apparel, and on August 11, 2014, Rogers Blue Jays Baseball Partnership opposed the registration, stating that the Creighton bluejay is too similar to the Toronto Blue Jay. The Toronto Blue Jays assert that Creighton's new logo would lead the public to believe that the goods sold bearing the new bluejay mark are somehow "approved, endorsed or sponsored" by the baseball team. While your initial reaction may be that the head of Creighton's bird is pointing right while Toronto's points left, the Toronto logo has a maple leaf on the head of the bird, and the eyes and beak of the birds look quite different, Toronto has a rebuttal. The opposition states that Creighton's new logo is "comprised of a blue jay bird head design in profile with its crest raised in a manner similar to certain [Toronto logos]. The design is formed by thick, clean lines and outlines with no gradient or shading, resulting in a bold, two-dimensional mark that is highly similar to the designs contained in certain [Toronto logos]." The baseball organization is concerned that consumers might conclude that Creighton's goods bearing the bird are somehow affiliated with Toronto.

Is that really the case? Are consumers not used to seeing a college version of a mascot and also a professional version of a mascot? Let's take a look at a few of the college/professional versions of logos that currently coexist:

Arizona Cardinal1

Arizona Cardinals

Ball State Cardinal

Ball State University Cardinals

Buffalo Bills

Buffalo Bills

Howard University Bills

Howard University Bison

Miami Dolphin Mascot

Miami Dolphins

Shoreline Community College

Shoreline Community College Dolphins

(at least the dolphins look pretty similar)

Carolina Panther

Carolina Panthers

Eastern Illinois Panthers

Eastern Illinois Panthers

Have I made my point? I'm not saying that the USPTO will not find the new Creighton University bluejay mark to be confusingly similar to the Toronto Blue Jay marks. I am, however, simply suggesting that Toronto may have a bit of a hurdle to overcome to prove that consumers that are used to distinguishing between collegiate and professional mascots are likely to think that goods bearing the Creighton bluejay are somehow sponsored by or affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays. Mascots are so popular these days that they even have their own competition. We'll have to be on the lookout to see whether the new Creighton bluejay makes it into this year's mascot challenge: