With 'Camden Yards' trademark, he swings for fences Arnold man gambles on a stadium name

August 17, 1991|By Sandy Banisky

As the months dragged wearily by and the Orioles and state officials agonized over what to name the new downtown Baltimore ballpark, Roy Becker made his move.

On July 1, Mr. Becker, a self- described entrepreneur from Arnold, applied for a trademark to sell clothing bearing the words "Camden Yards," one of the leading contenders for the name of the Orioles stadium.

No one with the Maryland Stadium Authority has trademarked anything.

What that means for the signature of the new stadium -- or the right to market concessions based on its name -- is unclear.

Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Stadium Authority, says he's not yet concerned. The stadium remains nameless and the trademark has not been approved.

But if Mr. Becker, 28, wins the trademark, and if the new stadium bears the name Camden Yards, the Stadium Authority may find itself in a legal tangle over who gets to sell souvenirs bearing the logo. The financial implications are huge.

"If your trademark becomes registered, you can preclude other people from selling," said Gil Weidenfeld, public affairs director for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

While the patent office examines Mr. Becker's application -- a process that could take a year -- Mr. Becker is peddling gray Camden Yards T-shirts for $12 in a couple of stores and outside Memorial Stadium.

Business, he says, is great -- though he will not say how many shirts he has sold or how many he has in his inventory.

Mr. Becker says he does not intend to complicate the stadium's identity crisis. No indeed, agrees his lawyer, Gary Maslan.

"His intent is to be an entrepreneur and to be a businessman and make a living," Mr. Maslan said yesterday.

And if the Stadium Authority and the Orioles want to use the name Camden Yards? "We would do our best to work with them," Mr. Maslan said. "We are Baltimoreans. We want what's best for Baltimore. And what's right for Mr. Becker. And for the little guy.

"God bless America. This is a story that dreams are made of."

But Mr. Belgrad said that if naming the stadium Camden Yards could create legal problems, the Stadium Authority may think twice.

"Let's say if the parties should agree on Camden Yards. . . . If it's going to do nothing more than open up a hornet's nest of litigation, then we may not want to do that," Mr. Belgrad said.

Not name the stadium Camden Yards because of this guy from Arnold?

"That's right," Mr. Belgrad said. "If it's going to open the way to allowing someone to exploit the name unfairly, we're not going to be a party to that."

Mr. Weidenfeld said a comparable issue arose in San Antonio a few years ago when a business trademarked the name Alamodome before government officials did. The dome is under construction.

Eventually the company agreed to give up the trademark, but only after it spent more than a year selling merchandise.

Is Mr. Becker looking for a similar deal from the Stadium Authority? "No comment at this time," he said.

"Anything is negotiable," Mr. Maslan added.

Mr. Weidenfeld, at the trademark office, said an examiner will review several issues.

Among them: Is Camden Yards a geographical name? Has anyone else been using it, which might lead to confusion for the public? And then there's the application of a Minneapolis company to trademark the name Camden Park for use on clothing. The examiner would have to determine if Camden Yards was too similar to Camden Park to be approved.

Why didn't the Stadium Authority apply first for the Camden Yards trademark?

Mr. Belgrad said he didn't dare: "If we copyrighted every potential name, there'd be speculation that that was the front-runner."

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