The fur is flying in Chicago after the Chicago Cubs, my home team, filed a lawsuit against John Paul Weier, Patrick Weier and three other unidentified individuals who are all dressing up as “Billy Cub” and taking pictures outside of Wrigley Field. As many know, I am a diehard Cubs fan but I have been critical of Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts in the past for this threats against fans to squeeze more money out of one of the most profitable teams in the country. The picture above was submitted as part of the lawsuit.
The men have been taking pictures for money as the unofficial mascot “Billy Cub.” The Cubs insist that the men are giving the team a bad image, violate trademark rules, and undermine the new official mascot “Clark the Cub.” The lawsuit accuses the men of making “rude, profane and derogatory remarks and gesticulations to patrons, ticket holders, fans or other individuals located in the area of Wrigley Field.” It also says that the fake mascot is a bit of a wild animal at night and has gotten into bar fights. Indeed, there is a YouTube video of Patrick Weier, 36, punching a guy who took off his costume head. He said later that patrons had been harassing him at the John Barleycorn bar near the stadium after the Cubs played the Philadelphia Phillies.
The lawsuit says that John Paul Weier also has operated or controlled websites, domain names and social media pages promoting Billy Cub character and sold merchandise including T-shirts that infringe the team’s trademarks. The obvious confusion with Cubs mascot would seem obvious though trademark critics would ask whether this means that the team now controls any image of a baby bear. Of course, this baby bear is wearing a Cub jersey. The question is whether anyone who tries to create an unofficial mascot can be sued in this fashion. What about a fan becoming “Billy the Bat”? Would there still be a confusion claim?