Last week, Activision Blizzard officially unveiled the Overwatch League, a major new esports initiative that will bring the best Overwatch players from around the world together in head-to-head competition. But the league’s logo could lead to legal troubles of its own.
The logo for the Overwatch League uses the same tried-and-tested formula as branding for the likes of the National Basketball Association (NBA) or Major League Baseball (MLB); a two-tone background underneath a bright white silhouette of a player. And MLB feels that the similarity is too close, according to a report from Deadspin.
A trademark on the logo was approved on March 28, at which point the image was published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office — a standard practice that allows other entities to determine whether it infringes on their intellectual property. At that time, other companies have 30 days to register a complaint, according to a blog post from law firm Morrison/Lee.
After 29 days, MLB requested a 90-day extension so that it could further investigate the matter, and its request was approved. That extension expires next week, so it remains to be seen whether the baseball league will follow up on the matter, or leave the Overwatch League be.
MLB could conceivably gain authorization to force Activision Blizzard to drop the current logo and replace it with something else — which wouldn’t be ideal for the fledgling league, since the imagery was just unveiled to the public. However, it’s not yet clear whether the logo actually qualifies as an infringement from a legal standpoint.
While there is a definite similarity between the two emblems, MLB has to demonstrate that the Overwatch League’s logo suggests that the two entities are affiliated, or otherwise weakens its brand. Given that the more prominent NBA already utilizes a very similar logo without any major detriment to MLB, this could be a tough sell.
In any case, MLB only has a matter of days to decide if it will pursue further legal action against the current form of the Overwatch League logo. By next week, we should know whether or not Activision Blizzard has to consider going back to the drawing board.