Trademark Musings

Thoughts on trademark issues by Laura Winston

The House that Who Built?

There are some big-time Yankee fans in my family.  Even if that makes some of you cringe, there’s no denying that the Yankees have quite a storied history.  The original Yankee Stadium, opened in 1923, is now two stadiums (stadia?) ago.   Yet the expression “The House that Ruth Built” lives on. 

Recently I mused about nicknames coined by third parties that become trademarks  for the person, business, etc. for which the nickname is coined.  I couldn’t think of many, but a recent entry in the TTABlog (R) discusses the Yankees’ opposition  to applications to register the trademark THE HOUSE THAT JUICE BUILT for clothing items and mugs.  The applicant, IET Products and Services, Inc., have raised a parody defense and claim they want to call attention to steroid use in baseball.  We’ll see where it goes.  (I’ll visit the issue of parody in trademarks in a future musing.)   But it got me thinking again about the third-party nicknames issue.

The Yankees have three registrations for the trademark THE HOUSE THAT RUTH BUILT; the oldest one is from 2004 and claims use since 1996 in connection with baseball games and the like as well as some knick-knacks.  The expression goes back decades: the blog The Big Apple says that “it is not known what sportswriter changed the words [of The House that Jack Built nursery rhyme] to `The House That Ruth Built,’ but it is said that this occurred even before the official 1923 stadium opening.”  Assuming this is accurate, people were calling Yankee Stadium “the house that Ruth built” for at least 63 years before the Yankees decided to slap it on some stuff.  

One of the claims made by the Yankees is that THE HOUSE THAT JUICE BUILT is immoral or scandalous, and that it will disparage the Yankees and will bring them into contempt or disrepute.  Unfortunately, as someone who has been in many heated discussions with Red Sox and Mets fans, I’m not sure how much more contempt there could be for the team that plays in The House that Ruth Built.

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December 14, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] mused before  about people or business claiming trademark rights in nicknames coined by third parties.  Here, […]

    Pingback by Stephen Colbert Talks About IT’S ON LIKE DONKEY KONG « Trademark Musings | November 17, 2010 | Reply


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