DuetsBlog Collaborations in Creativity & the Law

Circle Me R, Bert

Posted in Mixed Bag of Nuts

“It just kind of spontaneously happened. Nobody at a production meeting said, ‘OK, now we are going to start circling Twins fans at the ballpark.’ It’s just something that happened spontaneously that has caught fire.”

— Dick Bremer, 2002

Although we still have snow on the ground here in Minnesota, spring is officially here and Twins baseball is about to start.  The Twins take on the Orioles for their first game of the season tomorrow, and the home opener at Target Field is April 5 against the Mariners.

Yesterday, Twins fans were alarmed when long-time color commentator and fan favorite Bert Blyleven announced on Twitter that his beloved “Circle Me Bert” on-air element in which he circles fans with a telestrator, was being replaced by a related Minnesota Lottery concept called the “Winners Circle.”  Fans were in an uproar.

But it was a false alarm – or at least, Fox Sports North reversed course fast enough to make it appear that way.  Instead, the “Winners Circle” is a apparently a complimentary addition, not substitution, that is FSN’s way of expanding the Circle Me Bert concept to a broader audience, to include fans watching the game at home, likely through social media.  As Michael Rand of the Star Tribune writes, perhaps the move by Fox Sports North was related to a reduced role for Blyleven on the air.  His contract for 2017 and 2018 is for just under half the games, down form essentially every game a decade ago.  The new name would allow FSN to promote the Minnesota Lottery without Blyleven.

Regardless, the good news for Blyleven is that with “Circle Me Bert” continuing for the forseeable future, he’ll likely be able to sling some additional merch and keep his Circle R or ®  for CIRCLE ME BERT, the mark he smartly registered more than ten years ago, and has since renewed, for clothing and toys, like this Circle Me Bert bobblehead and t-shirt.

The same cannot be said for one of the other pieces of this story.  Did you notice no ® attaches to the word “telestrator” used above?  That’s because ESPN cancelled the mark TELESTRATOR, registered in connection with “apparatus for generating video images which can be superimposed over background video images,” through a simple default judgment at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, back in 2001.

With no valid registration now for almost 20 years, no ®, and widespread, long-term use of the the word without pointing to a single source, it seems like an easy call – strikes one, two, and three – the telestrator is OUT, having become genericized, and sent to the bench with other former trademarks like “escalator“.