The Toronto Raptors do not own a federal trademark registration for the team’s “claw on a basketball” logo.
Our story starts in 2014 when the Raptors redesigned their logo to what it is today (with Canadian rapper Drake having an important consulting role).
The Raptors filed 18 trademark applications around the new logo. Then, in May of 2015, Monster Energy opposed all of applications claiming that the “claw” in the Raptors’ logo looked too much like the Monster Energy claw.
This case has been going on ever since. As you can see in the case file, there have been a lot of extensions of time filed, which indicates the parties have been actively trying to settle this case. Moreover, the filings with the USPTO indicated that discovery has also been conducted. This means the parties have exchanged documents, perhaps done depositions, and they’ve certainly spent time and money on this case.
As the case stands today, Monster Energy just moved in May of 2019 to block the Raptors’ argument that its old logo would preclude Monster Energy from complaining about the new logo. It will likely take months for the USPTO to decide this issue alone. If the Raptors go on to win the NBA finals, they will become a champion of a major sports league that does not even own the trademark registration for their logo.
The significance of all this is that if somehow Monster Energy would manage to win this case, it could have a preclusive effect in federal court, which means that Monster Energy could force the Raptors to change their current logo. I view that as extremely unlikely, but it’s ultimately a possible outcome of this case.
As a final note, Monster Energy actually filed the same exact opposition to the Canadian trademark applications the Raptors filed.