Analysis: Snoop Dogg vs MLSE Trademark Infringement Case

Could hockey and pot be a good mix? Don’t answer that.

Maple Leaf Sport and Entertainment doesn’t think so. It has come to light in recent days that the Toronto Maple Leafs’ ownership group has embarked on a trademark infringement legal claim against rapper/actor/entrepreneur Snoop Dogg. Rightly or wrongly, “Snoop” has been linked to a number of unsavoury endeavours ranging from alleged gang-related criminal activity to murder; a charge he was acquitted of in 1996. His public stance on the use of cannabis is well-documented. While acceptance of cannabis is becoming widespread, the day that hockey and pot are aligned is not coming any time soon. Understandably, MLSE does not want to be associated with anything related to Snoop’s business ventures.

Snoop Dogg vs MLSE Explained

Snoop’s products, which range from cannabis paraphernalia to several strains of the actual plant, are currently available in a variety of cannabis dispensaries in the state of Colorado. Presumably, the marijuana mogul would like to see that influence spread into other states, and maybe even Canada if presumed legalization of the controlled substance is realized.

MLSE feels that their brand’s identity and integrity are compromised by the rapper’s trademarks which are currently pending and that any confusion between the two brands would tarnish their reputation as an original-six NHL club.

Snoop’s brand identity features a seven-sided leaf with the words “Leafs by Snoop” in white lettering emblazoned across the body.

Are there similarities? That is subjective at best. To assume that regional distribution of the pot advocate’s wares in Colorado impacts perception of the Toronto-based hockey team in any tangible way may be a tough argument to make.

Legal View On Snoop Dogg vs MLSE

There are numerous hockey-related blogs and websites with no affiliation to MLSE that talk specifically about the Toronto Maple Leafs, either weekly or daily. Some may actually take in revenue. Some even feature a blue and white leaf in their branding. If I am Snoop Dogg’s legal representation, I am citing these examples of direct parodying, which MLSE has failed to address. Visual similarity between these entities and the Maple Leaf trademarks versus the Snoop brand are far more pronounced, and obvious. Readers make no mistake and readily accept that these non-sanctioned blog sites are not affiliated with MLSE in any way.

So, from a legal standpoint, if MLSE readily accepts the existence of non-sanctioned entities using the word ‘Leafs’ in conjunction with a logo depicting multi-pointed foliage displayed in their hockey team’s colors, there is likely little to no legal grounds by which they can contend that Snoop’s usage of the word ‘Leafs’ emblazoned across a green leaf image violates trademark boundaries in any meaningful way.

Indirect as it may be, surely the association of a controlled substance and a vocal advocate of its use with the MLSE brand is upsetting. That is understandable. What we can’t assume is that general perception of the celebrity’s trademark will be such that MLSE will suffer any damages, due to supposed similarity.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Therefore, if MLSE can abide the use of the word ‘Leafs’, along with a graphic depiction of a leaf by a number of other entities, they cannot reasonably argue that his use of the same is a trademark infringement. Essentially, it would give MLSE the right to decide which examples of infringement they are OK with.

Honestly, Snoop’s branding lacks originality and creativity. It is derivate and bland. But, that doesn’t make it a trademark violation. MLSE’s case will undoubtedly fail to gain any traction.

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