The Toronto Maple Leafs are a pretty good NHL team, but they are picking a fight with an opponent they might find tougher than the Philadelphia Flyers?
The Toronto hockey team has reportedly filed a motion against multi-talented entertainer Snoop Dogg for copyright infringement. Snoop has collaborated with Canadian cannabis giant Canopy Growth to develop and market a cannabis brand called Leafs by Snoop; and the hockey team contends that the name and logo are just too close to their own.
Snoop’s team certainly can’t claim that their client is unaware of the team or its logo. In the video for his immensely popular 1993 song Gin and Juice, Snoop wore a Pittsburgh Penguins jersey. That sparked a fashion trend in which many young people wore NHL team jerseys. Snoop himself helped fuel the trend, frequently appearing at public events wearing hockey jerseys, and one of the ones he donned most often was the white-and-blue home jersey of the Maple Leafs.
An admitted NHL fan, Snoop—a native Angelino who generally roots for the Anaheim Ducks—recorded a video of himself congratulating the Nashville Predators on clinching a playoff berth in the spring of 2018.
Leafs vs. Leafs
The crux of the case would appear to be what Snoop would stand to gain by associating his cannabis brand with the Maple Leafs. It’s not like he would be riding their coattails to fame. As of this morning, Snoop had 17.6 million Twitter followers, while the Maple Leafs had roughly one-tenth that, at 1.85 million.
In its motion, the team contended that the “unusual spelling of Leafs could lead to confusion.” Indeed, the choice to use the word “leafs” instead of the more accepted “leaves” is rare—if not unprecedented.
While several theories have emerged as to why the team spells its name that way, it should be noted that the NHL team changed its name from the St. Patricks in 1927 just a few months after the Toronto Maple Leafs baseball team won the International League championship, making them the sporting talk of the town. The baseball team had been using the name since 1896.
Can You Spot the Similarities?
The logo was designed by Manhattan-based Pentagram, which bills itself as the “world’s largest independently-owned design studio” and is perhaps most famous for its years of work with Saturday Night Live. They said that: “Snoop and his team wanted to establish a brand that avoided clichés for a more sophisticated image that would still represent fun and a good time. The identity centers on an iconic marijuana leaf playfully constructed of jewel-like facets, accompanied by elegant packaging that is layered with laid-back California cool.”
Indeed, the logo itself is a stylized gold marijuana leaf with the brand name on it in sans-serif all-caps type. The similarity to the Maple Leafs’ logo is no more than slight, but the team disagrees. In its filing, the Maple Leafs said: “The applicant’s design mark uses a white font enclosed within a wide-shaped leaf with three large segments at the top of the mark, a design echoing and highly similar to the Maple Leafs’ design marks.”
Copyright lawyers tell Leafly that to move forward, the Maple Leafs have to prove that their brand and logo are well-established and are instantly recognizable by a large group of people. That should not be hard. Then comes a more difficult step. They would have to present a convincing amount of evidence that the two logos are close enough to cause confusion to potential consumers. That would be accomplished by surveys, affidavits, and personal testimony.
In other words, the Maple Leafs would have to comb the country looking for a significant number of people who will admit that they can’t tell the difference between Snoop’s gold cannabis leaf and the team’s own blue maple leaf.
If Snoop’s brand manages to survive the potential suit by the Maple Leafs, it might still face another major legal hurdle in Canada.
The Cannabis Act specifies that cannabis products cannot be marketed or promoted by “depiction of a person, character or animal, whether real or fictional.” The fact that Snoop is indelibly tied to cannabis culture and his name is on the package appears to indicate his stamp of approval at the very least.
For now, Leafs by Snoops is sold under the acronym LBS in the Canadian market.