Toronto Maple Leafs Vs Snoop Dogg: Why Trademarks are So Important in Sports


Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey franchise were recently granted an extension to oppose two applications for trademark registration by none other than Snoop Dogg.

The applications are to trademark the name of his marijuana product line “Leafs by Snoop”, as well as the logo, a stylized maple leaf similar to the Toronto Maple Leafs’. According to Snoop, the mark has been used on these products since 2015.

Aside from the fact that both logos feature three lines of text superimposed onto a maple leaf, many experts say it is unlikely consumers will confuse them. However, Ottawa-based intellectual property lawyer Neil Milton doubts that the MLSE is concerned about that. “It’s not necessarily about Snoop Dogg on packages of weed and whether that’s being confused for tickets for hockey games,” explained Milton. “But if both logos appear on a T-shirt or on a sporting shirt, are they going to be confusingly similar? Especially in an era of merchandising, the potential for conflict is not about what the underlying core business originally was.”

As The Guardian reports, the NHL has a reputation for “aggressively defending” the trademarks of its sports franchises – and we don’t blame them.

For a sports company, branding is crucial. Your trademarks are not only valuable assets but help to build trust and loyalty to both you and your product. As per the World Intellectual Property Organization, by protecting your brand or trademark, you can:

  • Maintain the value and integrity of your brand;
  • Maximize commercial revenue from sponsorship, merchandising and licensing agreements;
  • Inspire confidence among consumers that the product or image associated with your brand is authentic, and that any advertising or promotion that makes reference to your brand is legitimate.

Registering your mark on a national trademark register is key, and the first step towards protecting yourself from having someone else undermine your brand image (or worse, swipe it out from right under you).


Want to brush up on your trademark knowledge? Click below!