Blue Jays’ pitcher on the mark with catchphrase, says lawyer

Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman, a 5-8, is among the shorter hurlers in the majors (Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports).

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman isn’t daunted by his status as one of the shorter hurlers in the major leagues. In fact, he now plans to profit from it.

Last week, the 5-8 Stroman officially trademarked the term “Height Doesn’t Measure Heart” and its abbreviation HDMH.

On his trademark application, first filed back in May 2014, Stroman indicated he plans to use the phrase on athletic apparel including T-shirts and sweatpants.

A trademark must be used to sell goods or services or it expires after three years.

“That’s the pivotal thing — what’s he selling?” says Toronto lawyer Pauline Bosman of Fluxgold Izsak Jaeger LLP. “It’s really about being out there in the business and selling wares and services in association with a specific mark or a label.”

Stroman joins a long line of athletes who’ve trademarked various catchphrases or nicknames including: Wayne Gretzky with “The Great One 99”; Reggie Jackson’s “Mr. October”; and boxing announcer Michael Buffer’s famous “Let’s get ready to rumble!”

Even more generic-sounding terms and phrases can be trademarked. NBA all-star LeBron James trademarked “King James”, a name that certainly could be used to refer to others. James certainly isn’t the first King James, although Bosman says that’s unimportant, as a trademark is different from a copyright in that rights belong to whoever’s marketing the content; not who created it.

“It doesn’t matter who came up with [a catchphrase], if the person who came up with it isn’t selling goods and using it as a trademark, then it’s available to whoever wants to use it.”

And unless that name or catchphrase could be easily confused with someone else’s wares, there shouldn’t be a problem trademarking it.

“There’s Jaguar cars, there’s also Jaguar sewing needles, and those aren’t confusing,” she points out. “Nobody thinks the people who make the cars are also the people who make the sewing needles.”

Ottawa is planning changes to the current Trade-marks Act in 2015 to align Canada’s system more closely with international protocols.

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