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On the night of Oct. 17, the New York Yankees ensured that the city’s two major league baseball clubs would face each other in the 2000 World Series, the first all-New York face-off in 44 years. The city’s residents immediately erupted into jousting and ranting, reminiscing and raving-a virulent baseball fever engulfing the nation’s largest city. Yet inside the offices of the big leagues’ merchandising arm, Major League Baseball Properties Inc. (MLBP), the baseball junkies weren’t enjoying the hoopla the way everyone else was. They had trademark trouble. Baseball’s logo overseers took action to secure complete control of the magic words “Subway Series” before the opportunity passed. On Oct. 20, the day before the first game, MLBP sued Mineola, N.Y., attorney Peter Brav, who owns a trademark for a Subway Series T-shirt design that he first printed in 1985. MLBP charged that he infringed its trademark and improperly registered the Web address subwayseries.net. Twenty-four hours later, MLBP had more luck with another Long Island attorney, W. Gerald Asher. He decided to yield his claim to the use of “Subway Series” on novelty hats. The big leagues’ marketers also took to the streets to defend their trademarks. A squad of 25 MLBP inhouse investigators, accompanied by court-ordered U.S. marshals and lawyers, slapped 150 civil complaints on counterfeiters in Manhattan by the start of Game 4. They seized 15,000 T-shirts and other unauthorized garb, 15 times 1999′s haul. Eight snoops also joined 40 undercover cops, who, at press time, had collared about 150 people selling fakes around the stadiums. “They don’t just copy ‘Subway Series,’ ” said Ethan Orlinsky, MLBP’s general counsel. “ They throw as much of the intellectual property on the shirt that they can. They include the Mets and Yanks logos. Each team has their ‘NY’ lettering trademarked. There’s the Yankee top hat logo. The Mets have the skyline logo.” Orlinsky, who oversees a portfolio of 9,000 trademark registrations worldwide, also sent out 14 cease-and-desist letters to radio stations and newspapers running unauthorized World Series giveaways. Orlinsky himself prowled the streets of Queens with the undercovers after Game 3 until 2:30 a.m. Asher folded his defense because he wants to maintain relations with MLBP: He would like the use of the Mets and Yankee logos. A sometime sports agent whose headpiece is circled by a plastic subway car on a track (see his Web site at newyorksubwayseries.com), he didn’t want to fight deep pockets twice. “Even though I’m a lawyer, we all have our limitations.” Brav, meanwhile, believes he has rights to “Subway Series” on all apparel and that MLBP should cease and desist. The MLBP has offered zilch, he said, so he’ll defend his claim. “We sought to resolve this for 2 1/2 years,” he explained. “I’m not trying to hold them up.” The market for Subway Series gear will live on. Since interleague play began in 1997, New York experiences a Subway Series of sorts every year. Asher worried that Orlinsky may take too long to entertain his proposal: “The novelty hat has a short life span.”

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