So far in these NBA playoffs, I’ve abdicated my duty as a thirtysomething white guy: to watch and livetweet every game like I’m getting paid for it. I’m sorry. But I’ve also been vindicated, in a way, since it turns out there’s a more important drama afoot than the Warriors-Raptors battle for a championship title — one that has nothing to do with Kevin Durant’s Achilles tendon injury or whether Kawhi Leonard would stay in Toronto if his team succumbs to the 3-1 curse. No, it’s about a copyright infringement claim… from Monster Energy, which claims the Raptors’ claw-mark logo is too similar to theirs.
Now, you might think this is some weird play for the Raptors’ spotlight as they attempt to make history in the finals. Why else take legal action on this right this moment? That, my friends, is where it gets really good. See, Monster has been after the Raptors since 2015, shortly after the team unveiled its current logo. Counselors for both sides of this dispute have been hashing it out for all of four entire years. And as Josh Gerben, founder and principal of the trademark-focused Gerben Law Firm, notes in his explanation of the case, those lawyers have been busy. They’ve filed many time extensions in an effort to settle, and they’ve entered into discovery. “This means the parties have exchanged documents, perhaps done depositions, and they’ve certainly spent time and money on this case,” Gerben says.
The utter madness. You love to see it.
I can’t even wrap my head around spending one’s life this way. Imagine you hit the bar for happy hour, and some friend asks what you’ve been working on lately: “Oh, I’m trying to prove the Toronto Raptors’ claw-mark design is materially different from that neon green ‘M’ on cans of Monster Energy.” My god. What are we as a species? Where are we going? Who will save us? I can’t answer these questions, but I can tell you that, as ever in anything to do with the NBA’s Canadian presence, Drake is involved.
Back in 2014, Sports Illustrated reported that the rapper had an “important consulting role” in the Raptors’ fresh aesthetic, yet a few days later Drizzy distanced himself from the project: “Actually, this redesign was executed without me,” he tweeted when someone attributed the insignia to him. Which makes you wonder if he knew the Monster copyright battle was coming and wanted no part of it? Hmmm! I don’t know about you, but I’m now invested in a theory that Drake knowingly and brazenly ripped off the Monster Energy logo, then realized he wasn’t going to get away with it and bailed as fast as he could.
Yes, that must be what happened. Indubitably.
As for what’s going on at Monster Beverage Corporation: ABSOLUTE SCENES. Turns out they’re absurdly litigious, and blocking the Raptors’ initial trademark filings in 2015 — yes, the team still doesn’t own the registration for those logos — is part of an incredible pattern of accusing literally everyone of ganking their steeze. It’s not just those super-cool claw marks they’re protecting; anyone who uses the word “monster” or even the letter “M” is suspect. Last year, a U.K. pizzeria, Monsta Pizza, emerged victorious in a scuffle over their name that began when Monster Energy brought an action alleging that customers would confuse one business for another. A storefront being, you know, pretty much indistinguishable from the tallboys they sell at the gas station. Monster Energy had previously sued, for similarly dubious reasons, a forum for aquarium enthusiasts (MonsterFishKeeper.com), a brewery selling a beer called “Vermonster” (the suit was dropped under public pressure), and a maker of craft sodas, Thunder Beast, because Monster has the slogan “Unleash the Beast.”
One has to wonder if the company’s legal team of Kyles is cranked up on Monster around the clock.
Where does all this leave the Raptors-Monster case? Well, Monster has moved to block the team’s argument that an old claw logo of theirs predates the energy drink’s. At issue, I suppose, is whether we’re meant to see any of these images as claws or the gashes made by claws. Whatever’s going on, there remains a chance that the Raptors will have to pay the multibillion-dollar beverage firm in a settlement and/or figure out a new, clawless logo. (With input from Drake? You know it!)
As I can’t envision a stupider thing going before a judge in a taxpayer-funded court of law, I desperately hope we get to see this play out in its full, asinine splendor. What I’m saying is, Raptors in six, or Warriors coming back in seven… such outcomes mean nothing to me, not when I have these shenanigans to follow instead. Sports are meaningless. This is all that matters.
Cheers to capitalism, baby.