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You’ve no doubt heard the age-old question of “what came first: the chicken, or the egg?” Well, after last week’s Trademark Trial and Appellate Board (TTAB) decision regarding the “House That Juice Built Trademark” (a satirical jab at the N.Y. Yankees’ Stadium nickname, “The House That Ruth Built”), I’m sure the guy on the losing end of that issue was asking the same question; only his question was framed in terms of: when exactly does a trademark become famous – when the trademark holder does something to make the mark noteworthy or when the trademark itself does something. It seems that the N.Y. Yankees, who won their TTAB battle with as much gusto as their 27 World Series championships, would say the fame of the mark comes first, we’ll worry about the other details later.

Quick Summary of the case: a maker of t-shirts and hats applied to register two trademarks: THE HOUSE THAT JUICE BUILT and the logo shown below. The New York Yankees, owner of the trademark THE HOUSE THAT RUTH BUILT and a logo that includes a baseball with a stars and stripes hat, asked the TTAB not to register the t-shirt maker’s trademarks because the marks were confusingly similar to the Yankees’ marks.