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AOL Throws Cincinnati A Curve

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The 2007 baseball season is opening with a surprising match up: the Cincinnati Reds versus AOL. The Major League Baseball club filed opposition to AOL’s application for trademark of "RED," the name of AOL’s social network for teens.

Launched in late 2003, AOL’s RED was MySpace when MySpace wasn’t cool, an online nest for teens, offering celebrity gossip, style advice, music, news, sports, and blogs. According to a January 2007 comScore report, RED attracts about two million unique visitors.

Antonio Borreill, an attorney for New York law firm Cowan, Liebowitz & Latman, who represents the Cincinnati Reds, first filed opposition to RED in December of last year, updating the complaint last week.

The official protest appears to be inspired by AOL’s application for trademark of the term "Red," published in an October 3, 2006 edition of the Official Gazette.

The timing of the application explains why the Cincinnati Reds didn’t seem to have a problem with it before, and why the club didn’t go after the much-publicized (Red), U2 front man Bono’s campaign to raise awareness and money for AIDS in Africa.

Well, the PR nightmare of going after a charitable organization was probably reason enough not to oppose. But AOL’s trademark audacity was, apparently, the last straw.

The next obvious question is "can you trademark a color, or color word?" The answer is: sometimes.

While trademarking the color itself seems iffy and situation-dependent, as illustrated a Color Matters, RegisteringATradmark.com notes UPS has the market cornered on Brown.

There are other things to consider, like whether there is sufficient prior use, potential confusion between companies offering similar services, and genericization concerns.

Though colors sometimes are trademarked, it seems doubtful the Cincinnati ball club could make a case for confusion. However, they have been using the name "Reds" for upwards of a century now.      

Representatives of the Cincinnati Reds could not be reached for comment.

AOL Throws Cincinnati A Curve
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