NHL Goes To Bat Over Intellectual Property Dispute


Whether you are a fan of professional hockey or not, you’ve likely heard of or watched the Stanley Cup. As one of the most iconic trophies handed out, the National Hockey League (NHL) fiercely protects the Stanley Cup from manufacturers seeking to benefit off of its image. This includes the recent filing of an intellectual property dispute lawsuit against a company selling a “Stanley Stein 25 oz. Hockey Beer Cup Mug.”

Last year, the product showed up online bearing a striking resemblance to the Stanley Cup. The Stanley Stein was a 25 ounce beer stein and its description was careful not to mention the Stanley Cup by name. Part of its description read, “We’ve all dreamed about drinking from ‘The Cup.’ Now you can with your very own 25 ounce Hockey Cup.” While the Stanley Stein might have been popular with some sports fans, the NHL filed a lawsuit claiming the product manufacturer was engaging in a “flagrant attempt to free-ride on the fame, goodwill, and commercial value of the National Hockey League and its Member Clubs.”

In its lawsuit, the NHL claims the Stanley Stein is an unauthorized replica of its own Stanley Cup, thereby infringing upon its intellectual property rights. The NHL also asserts the product manufacturer is using city names, color combinations, and logos of several NHL teams, further infringing upon its intellectual property rights.

The manufacturers of the Stanley Stein have argued against the allegations, claiming the product is an “independent artistic creation.” The Stanley Stein was created when the owner wanted to purchase a beer stein shaped like a sports trophy, but couldn’t find any on the market, leading him to create his own. Further, the Stanley Stein manufacturer points out 15 “visual differences” between the Stanley Cup and the Stanley Stein.

Whether or not the Stanley Stein does in fact infringe upon the NHL’s intellectual property rights is yet to be determined. What might seem on the surface to be a straightforward case will actually be quite complicated. The NHL is claiming protection under the Lanham Act, a federal law regarding trademarks. The makers of the Stanley Stein maintain that their First Amendments rights allow them to manufacture their product. The First Amendment does protect parodies of protected trademarks and doesn’t consider them to be infringement.

Commercial Litigation Attorneys

Intellectual property dispute litigation can very quickly become complex, lengthy, and expensive. Anyone involved in this type of litigation should seek the advice of experienced commercial litigation attorneys who can protect their interests and pursue a successful resolution. Contact the commercial litigation attorneys at MehaffyWeber today to schedule an appointment and learn how we can help.