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The Rapper and The Slugger

by Bruce Jobse

Can it be that the intense rivalry between two of Major League Baseball’s oldest and most famous teams, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, which is already global in nature, has spilled over into the world of intellectual property? Apparently so.

Last week notorious Yankee fan and successful rapper/producer Jay-Z brought an action in US District Court in New York alleging that the online advertising of a nightclub named “Forty Forty” in Santo Domingo by David “Big Papi” Ortiz, one of the Red Sox heavy hitters, infringes Jay-Z’s trademark for “40/40 Club” as used on a chain of sports-oriented nightclubs. Seems that Big Papi was photographed a few seasons back, partying at the New York location of the 40/40 Club. That alone was probably enough to irritate local patrons, including New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez. But apparently Mr. Ortiz’s club opening on his native Dominican Republic turf with an alleged confusingly similar mark was more inflammatory to Jay-Z than watching Mr. Rodriguez being called out after slapping the ball from Bronson Arroyo’s glove during the 2004 ALCS playoffs.

So is this high and outside fastball aimed towards Big Papi’s ear really about the Lanham Act and trademark infringement? Although the 40/40 Club has locations in various cities in the US as well as Japan and China, it seems that Ortiz may take a swing at hitting this one out of the US District Court’s jurisdiction. It will be interesting to hear the official call, especially since Jay-Z is seeking an injunction. One thing for sure, the fans will enjoy watching both benches of lawyers rumble.

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