Rawlings Defensive Over Easton’s Plan to Release Bats With Similar Logo
On August 15, 2017, Rawlings Sporting Goods Co. filed a lawsuit against Easton Diamond Sports LLC arguing that Easton ripped off Rawlings popular “5150” brand of bats with a new “S150” line that Easton planned to release pursuant to a recent equipment rule change. Starting January 1, 2018, Little League Baseball has banned the use of all 2 ¼ inch barrel baseball bats constructed with composite material in the barrel, unless approved. Little League bats will now be governed by the BBCOR bat standard, and bats that comply with the standard are marked with one of three variations of the USA Baseball logo: black and white, colorized or a gray version. Previously, Little League used a Bat Performance Factor, which simply measured the increase in the liveliness of a ball hitting a bat compared to throwing a ball against a solid wall. Bats before the rule change could not exceed a BPF of 1.15 and had a 2 1/4 –inch maximum.
Rawlings has asked for an immediate temporary restraining order to block the launch of Easton’s line, which is set to debut September 1. Rawlings argues that their well-known trademark on its aluminum alloy 5150 bat will be infringed if Easton is allowed to introduce what they claim to be a “confusingly similar” bat as the “S150” model. Rawlings wrote that “[t]he public has come to know and rely on the trademark ‘5150’ as identifying a high-performance, high-quality bat originating with a single source, Rawlings.” The company later stated that Easton’s “S150” model is intended as a “low-end” cheap alternative.
Rawlings has further claimed that the timing of Easton’s new line is particularly troublesome, as it coincides with Little League’s planned change in regulations for its bats. This means that most current bats will need to be replaced in the coming months, and both companies will be competing for their share of a likely booming market.
Rawlings has been selling baseball bats under the 5150 trademark since 2009, and the company first received it registration for the mark in March 2010. Rawlings has also applied and received incontestability status, which is considered to be conclusive evidence of the owner’s exclusive right to use the mark with the registered goods and services. The key question to the suit will be whether consumers are likely to be confused as to the source of the Easton products.