Back when the sport was young and the collective consciousness was only vaguely aware of dudes fighting in cages, the UFC wisely copyrighted and trademarked their name or phrases like “the Octagon” – because that’s what you do when you want the law to protect you from people trying bite into your action. That’s why you rarely see any other MMA organizations out there using an eight-sided cage on their posters, or use “ultimate fighting whatever” in their names. If they do, they’ll get sued.
But years ago a company based out of Staten Island called CSI Entertainment Inc. had the bright idea to trademark the term “fight sports”. And years later, they sued the Canadian-based Fight Network over the Fight Network’s use of the term. Guess what? There was a protracted legal battle, and only recently did a judge affirm that CSI Entertainment was out of their damn mind.
Here’s MMAJunkie with the story. And yes, I was indeed called as an expert witness in the trial.
Who owns the term “fight sports”? Can anyone trademark a term so generic as to refer to a broad range of athletic activity, from kickboxing to MMA?
These were the questions in a recent lawsuit involving CSI Entertainment Inc., a New York-based video content distributor that accused Canada’s Fight Network of infringing on two of its federally registered trademarks. The case ended with CSI’s claims to the terms and its request for a preliminary injunction being dismissed, essentially limiting what any one party can claim to own in this sport.
The trademarks in question? The terms “fight sports” and “fight sports network,” both of which CSI registered in 2006, but which it had been using in business dealings since 2003, back when MMA and combat sports were still reaching out for a foothold in mainstream American consciousness.
According to Jim Genia, an MMA journalist and author (and former MMAjunkie contributor) who was called as expert witness in the case, the timing of the trademarks proved to be important.
“Before MMA was big and before anyone was really paying attention to it, (CSI) trademarked the terms like ‘fight sport,’” Genia told MMAjunkie. “Which, if the patent office was paying attention, there’s no way in hell they would have given someone a trademark on something that broad. It’s like trying to trademark the term ‘food.’ It’s too broad and ubiquitous.”