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  • Writer's pictureVillanova Sports Law Blog

Gritty: New Mascots and the Law

Updated: Feb 12

By Morgan Evans:

October is here which means it’s not only pumpkin spice season, but more importantly, hockey season. With the beginning of a new season, new faces on and off the ice are to be expected. A certain orange and furry face sticks out from the rest of the newbies. He has drawn attention from all over the country for his appearance and notable tendencies. If you guessed Gritty, you’re absolutely correct.

On September 24th, the Philadelphia Flyers introduced the team’s new mascot, a towering orange creature named “Gritty.” With the addition of a new mascot brings new laws and rules that the Philadelphia Flyers organization will have to adopt and abide by, along with some other regulations that they will have to work around during this creature’s first few weeks on the job.

Mascots in the NHL date back to the beginning of the league. Nowadays, nearly every team has a mascot, although some are not as prominent or as widely known as others. One of the more popular mascots, given his recent debut, is Gritty of the Philadelphia Flyers. The internet has quickly grown to love Gritty for his outrageous behavior and comments. However, a team’s decision to adopt a mascot is not one to be taken lightly, as they are often the subject of a number of different legal issues.

Trademark infringement is one of the most common issues that arise with mascots. Trademark considerations are one of the most important legal issues when creating a new team emblem, logo, jersey, and even mascot. Based in Intellectual Property rights, Trademark rights works to protect a proprietary thing and its likeness from others who want to use the thing in furthering their own commercial interest. Anything that uses an image of the protected mark or its likeness is subject to infringing upon a party’s trademark. When new concepts like mascots arise, they are inherently protected because they have trademark protections etched into their plans.[1]

Mascots have been subject to a history of lawsuits involving trademark infringement. For example, a San Diego mascot brought trouble for the team when he embodied the likeness of Barney from a parody skit.[2] Though the court dismissed the case, it is among others that have arisen. Additionally, in a digital era, there is more room for all sorts of potential trademark infringements.

Gritty is trademarked, like the Phillies’ Phanatic. Under trademark laws, teams can protect the likeness of the image as well. This prevents competitors from creating something else or brands from using the image of the mascot to promote products. Later this month, Gritty will have his own beer. Broken Goblet brewery will be releasing a limited edition “Nightmare Fuel” beer centered around the new mascot. The infatuation with Gritty doesn’t stop at just a can of beer. The beloved character already has a cheesesteak named after him, cupcakes featuring his face, and his own Italian ice. [3] The usage of a mascot’s image to sell products is a great use of a trademark. Gritty will generate profit on both ends of the deals that come his way. This is an incredibly beneficial feature of trademarks that has the potential to go far for those companies who partner with Gritty and the Flyers to use his likeness.

One of Gritty’s most notable characteristics is being a harsh defender of his team. For anyone who doesn’t favor the Flyers, he targets them with a tweet or a bag of popcorn. This can sometimes be problematic. Although it seems playful, there can be negative repercussions for mascots who behave like that. Any kind of contact, even as gentle as dumping popcorn on an opposing fan, can be considered harmful or offensive without being in the scope of a fan’s assumption of the risk. This is potentially problematic from a legal standpoint.

In the short amount of time that Gritty has been around, he has generated profits for the Flyers and attention for the city of Philadelphia. He has also created a buzz for the hockey community. Moving forward, he must be cautious for the possible legal repercussions that may surface from his conduct. Stay tuned on Twitter as this season’s star mascot will be fun to watch as he continues to take over the internet.

[1] Morales, X. “Can I Trademark a Mascot?”

[2] Morrow, S. “Is Your Favorite Team Breaking the Law?: Trademark Battles in the Sports”

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