Property, intangible

a blog about ownership of intellectual property rights and its licensing

Yankees Sued Over Ownership of Logo

There’s an interesting, albeit quixotic, complaint against the Yankees over the ownership of its “top hat” logo:

Plaintiff Tanit Buday claims that her uncle, Kenneth Timur, designed the logo for the Yankees in 1936 but was not compensated for the design.  In 1947 he modified the logo design in preparation for the 50-year anniversary of the Yankees occurring in 1952, but was again not compensated.  Fast forward to 2011 and Timur’s niece files a complaint for copyright infringement.  The complaint claims Timur had an unpublished, common law copyright in the design that was  assigned to the plaintiff.

Interestingly, while there is an expert report claiming to compare the Timur design to the current logo, the comparison is to a photograph of the logo from a 1952 uniform, not any design drawings (presumably because they don’t exist).  Proof of Timur’s authorship is based on the fact that he traditionally signed his work with a “P,” and the 1952 uniform uses a “P” instead of a “9” to indicate the Yankee’s first year, i.e., “1P03-1952” in a ring around the logo.

Which doesn’t really say anything about the ownership of the top hat design, only his modification of it in 1947.

Nevertheless, the claim of authorship as told in the complaint is convincing and the complaint itself is well-written by someone who knows what he’s doing.  But it’s still a law professor’s dream exam for exploring all the ways that the copyright claim could fail.  Publication without notice, non-renewal, work for hire, license, laches, and on and on.

Additional counts are for unjust enrichment, conversion, breach of contract, quantum meruit, breach of fiduciary duty and for an accounting.

Buday v. New York Yankees Partnership, No. 1:11-cv-02628-DAB (S.D.N.Y. April 18, 2011).
More reporting here and here.

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