The National Hockey League has filed suit in New York federal court against a few companies who make Stanley Cup-shaped beer mugs. The league claims trademark infringement—yawn—in what looks like a standard legal dispute over who owns the rights to a sports trophy that looks like a beer keg. But wait, there’s a fun wrinkle to the lawsuit: The NHL is not content to merely sue these companies. No no, the league gets massively petty and says the beer mugs are so shitty, they’re damaging the Stanley Cup’s reputation.
Let’s dig in!
Law360 reports the NHL is claiming the Stanley Cup-shaped steins manufactured by The Hockey Cup LLC, ABC Stein LLC and A&R Collectibles Inc., are so janky (not yet a legal term) that they “reflect poorly on the league by association.” Like people are going to buy these Stanley Cup steins, be horrified at the poor craftsmanship, and then swear off the NHL forever? Cut to my uncle swilling Molson Ice in his BarcaLounger, proclaiming: “I am a lifelong fan of a sports league that sanctions legal ice fighting, but this mug’s shoddy construction is a bridge too far.”
Citing negative Amazon reviews, the league contends the mugs are “‘impossible to clean,’ ‘terribly difficult to fill and to drink out of and results in flat bear [sic].’” Flat
bear beer. Tough to clean. How dare these mugs besmirch the good name of the National Hockey League, a sport that allows participants to legally fistfights?
Now contrast those shitty, shitty mugs with the gleaming, perfectly shiny jewel that is the Stanley Cup. Avert your eyes, mortals, for we are talking about a trophy that the league contends is “routinely recognized as one of the greatest and most celebrated—if not the greatest and most celebrated—individual trophy in sports.” Unlike the shitty mugs, the Stanley Cup has a reputation to uphold.
But hey, let’s go to the manufacturer of these shit mugs for comment on the lawsuit allegations. The companies, all owned by the same businessman, argue the NHL’s trademarks on the Stanley Cup should be considered void, “because the NHL does not own, or purportedly does not ‘control’ the disposition of, the physical Stanley Cup trophy.”
As the case of National Hockey League et al. v. The Hockey Cup LLC et al. winds its way through federal court, may we offer but a humble suggestion? Perhaps this trademark dispute could be resolved in a less litigious, more cost-effective manner: The Hockey Cup LLC gets five minutes for shoddy beer-stein manufacturing, while the NHL gets two minutes for sheer pettiness. Problem solved.