Trademark Issues Over Use of Buffalove

“Buffalove” is a word used in Western New York to express a sense of pride and affection for the city of Buffalo. Patty Watson, the owner of Patty’s People Pictures and maker of “BuffaLove Apparel” is trying to trademark her apparel design, which includes the word Buffalove. This may present legal issues, as Buffalove is also used by Visit Buffalo Niagara as a hashtag and by Jim Sheehan, who used the word on apparel he created last year.

Noted trademark attorney Jonathan Brown spoke to WGRZ about the potential legal issues with trademarking Buffalove. The full story is available on the WGRZ website.

Protecting Buffalove design from competitors

When Patty Watson submitted her trademark application, she did not “intend to claim” the word Buffalove. Watson told Channel 2 that her application was solely meant to secure the logo that she uses on the apparel she creates and sells. According to WGRZ, the trademark is intended to protect her design and the work that she put in to develop it. This application, however, is pushing another Buffalove shirt off the market.

WGRZ reports that Jim Sheehan, who was selling Buffalove shirts as a fundraiser for a child with cancer, received a letter from Watson’s lawyer about his design. She believed that his design was derivative of hers and the letter was an attempt to protect the financial interests of her business, which has been successful at Canalside and throughout the city.

Trademarking slogans presents difficulties

Trademark attorney Jonathan Brown explained to WGRZ that “the cornerstone of trademark infringement is likelihood of consumer confusion.” He went on to say that this is to protect consumers from buying knockoff versions of brand name items, but that trademarking slogans is more difficult because they are used more broadly. There is a precedent in courts to deny business owners trademark rights to slogans such as “windy city” or “Boston Strong”.

Watson told WGRZ that her application is intended to protect the whole design, which includes the buffalo, heart, and the word Buffalove together. Mr. Brown reviewed all applications connected to this issue and told WGRZ that Watson’s is worded to trademark the word “Buffalove” in connection to apparel and photography. “If she can establish that she is the owner of this trademark, she will only own it in connection with certain items, certain services,” he said.

About Jonathan W. Brown

Jonathan W. Brown is a senior partner at Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria. He is a member of the firm’s Intellectual Property and Commercial Litigation Practice Areas and focuses his practice on copyright law and trademark registration, privacy and publicity rights, intellectual property litigation, commercial litigation, and employment litigation. Mr. Brown is experienced in handling proceedings before the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board and the U.S. International Trade Commission. He handles matters in both New York and California and manages trademark portfolios for several multimedia and entertainment companies.