Livescore Wednesday, April 24

Some golf critics have portrayed LIV Golf as tacky copycat of the PGA Tour, but as the two leagues now unite, LIV stands accused of illegally copying the logo of a skateboarding footwear and apparel company.

Last Thursday, Cool Brands Supply filed an infringement lawsuit in New Jersey’s federal district court against LIV and HyFlyers GC, a LIV team that is captained by Phil Mickelson and includes James Piot, Brendan Steele, and Cameron Tringale. The Argentinian company produces Fallen, a brand that has been around for 20 years and is marketed as a “lifestyle” that embraces “creativity, risk, and freedom.”

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The case centers on the noticeable similarity between the “FF” logos for Fallen and HyFlyers:

Cool Brands stresses it has secured trademark registration for various clothing items, including shirts, jackets, visors and belts. Trademark registration carries legal benefits, including presumption of ownership, the exclusive right to use the mark and anti-counterfeit protections from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. A logo is crucial for consumers identifying an apparel company.

LIV began to feature the HyFlyers logo in February, prior to the start of its second season. It has been shown at tournaments, in advertisements and on websites. Cool Brands describes what it portrays as harmful appearances by Mickelson wearing apparel bearing the logo at the Masters and the PGA Championship. Mickelson “received substantial press attention and television coverage” because of “his fame and LIV Golf’s notoriety.” Millions of consumers saw him with the logo.

Cool Brands says it has “received numerous customer comments and complaints” about mistaken assumptions that Cool Brands has affiliated with LIV. Cool Brands sees this development as injurious, particularly given LIV’s ties to Saudi Arabia’s government and its association with “human rights abuses.” Another problem, Cool Brands charges, is the prospect of “reverse confusion,” where consumers might believe Cool Brands is copying the better-known LIV rather than the other way around.

Cool Brands and LIV are also competing for a similar group of consumers, the complaint maintains. It notes that Nike sells both golf and skateboarding apparel under a broader umbrella of lifestyle brands, and that New Balance, Adidas and Puma also sell both golf and skateboarding items. Cool Brands also mentions that Supreme, a “lifestyle brand with its roots in skateboarding,” has teamed up with Lacoste to release new lines of golf clothing.

Cool Brands demands an injunction to stop LIV from using the HyFlyers logo. It also wants monetary damages that include all gains and profits derived from LIV’s use of the logo.

LIV will answer the complaint in the coming weeks and later petition the presiding judge, Georgette Castner, for its dismissal.

LIV can dispute that it is infringing by accentuating differences between the logos. It can also note that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has registered other logos bearing “FF” in them, including those featuring two stylized “F”s placed back-to-back.

“FF” logos for a truck driving school, plumbing services, bathroom furniture, chiropractic services, exercise equipment, fishing lines, apparel related to live musical performances, toilet paper and assorted other goods and services have all been registered. Some look like the one for Fallen.

LIV could also argue that Fallen’s registration was intended for skateboarding apparel and footwear, and therefore does not conflict with LIV’s use of a logo for pro golf. Cool Brand’s registration makes multiple references to “skateboarding.”

At any point, Cool Brands and LIV could reach a settlement that involves LIV paying Cool Brands to drop its claims. A settlement might also entail a license agreement whereby LIV can use its logo without running afoul of the Fallen logo.

Last year, LIV applied to register the mark “HY FLYERS GC” for entertainment services connected to pro golf tournaments and related purposes. The USPTO has yet to approve the application but published the mark for opposition in March, meaning the public can comment. LIV has separately applied to register the same mark for golf-related clothing.

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