Garber: MLS has work to do on Cascadia trademark tussle

Timbers Army with the Cascadia Cup

Photo Credit: 
Craig Mitchelldyer

INDIANAPOLIS — Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber told reporters at the MLS SuperDraft on Thursday that the league still has all intentions of registering the trademark for the Cascadia Cup, but there’s work to do in relaying the message to the chorus of fans still critical of the move.

MLS first publicly addressed the trademark issue last week and insisted that the league, not the supporters groups who first created the Cascadia Cup eight years ago, is the proper entity to protect the trademark from potentially being exploited by an outside party.

The combined supporters groups from the Cascadia rivalry – the Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps – promptly created the Cascadia Cup Council, a group that has since filed a US federal trademark registration application for the Cascadia Cup mark, with a registration application pending in Canada.

“We have not done a good enough job communicating with the fans in the Pacific Northwest,” Garber said. “The goal is to have a trademark that’s managed, so that we – the league that has its teams playing in the Cascadia Cup – can ensure that that trademark is managed properly. That it’s not exploited by people that shouldn’t be exploiting it. That it’s not offered to those that might not have the right to be associated with Major League Soccer.”

The Cascadia Cup Council released a statement last week that condemned the league’s efforts to register the trademark, insisting that they are the rightful owners to the trademark.

“Not only does the Cascadia Cup Council believe they rightfully own the trademark to Cascadia Cup,” the statement read, “but they also are of the belief they are the appropriate entity to protect the mark from third parties that are unaffiliated with the supporters groups in the Pacific Northwest.”

Garber told reporters he’s unsure if registering the trademark will eventually lead to monetization via merchandise or brand sponsorship, but insisted that league officials will be the best caretakers of the trademark because “that’s what we do for a living.”

“[MLS can] ensure that it’s controlled. Prospective fan groups, in theory, could offer that trademark to a competitive sponsor,” Garber said. “They can take that trademark and sell it to a promoter. They can produce merchandise that’s not merchandise that we would want associated with our teams or with our league. There are so many things that go into intellectual property management.

“We’re very confident that by communicating with [Cascadia supporters] better and just talking about what our plans are that they’ll be pleased that we’ve got their interest and the interest of the league in mind.”

Although the Timbers, Sounders and Whitecaps have histories dating back to the 1970s, the Cascadia Cup was created by the supporters groups of the three teams in 2004. Each team has won it three times dating back to the rivalry’s A-League and USL-1 days, with the Timbers winning the most recent incarnation during the 2012 MLS season (above).