‘Detroit City Soccer Club’ again denied by USPTO

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Dan Gilbert, Tom Gores and the Ford family are struggling to land a Major League Soccer franchise.

They’re also struggling to land a name for the yet-to-be-awarded team.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office this week upheld its original ruling, denying the would-be ownership group a trademark for “Detroit City Soccer Club.”

Dan Gilbert is among the aspiring owners for a Major League Soccer expansion franchise in Detroit.

The government issued its initial denial in October, saying “Detroit City Soccer Club” was too close in name to “Detroit City Football Club,” a popular, semi-professional soccer team based out of Hamtramck. A trademark lawyer for Gilbert, Gores and the Fords filed an appeal in April, and again they were denied. The USPTO’s ruling cites a regulation in its refusal, saying it “bars registration of an applied-for-mark that so resembles a registered mark that it is likely a potential consumer would be confused, mistaken, or deceived as to the source of the goods and/or services of the applicant and registrant.”

The USPTO, in its response dated Wednesday, reiterates that the main problem is in the “Detroit City” moniker and less with the “soccer club” reference, but also noted that “soccer” and “football” are interchangeable when talking about soccer, another problem with the request.

This is the latest naming blow for the aspiring ownership group, which in September also filed a request to trademark “Motor City Soccer Club.” That request was denied in January.

More: Detroit City FC, St. Pauli fans find common ground

Website variations of Motor City Soccer Club (like motorcitysc.com) no longer circle back to 313presents.com — the new business venture joining Olympia Entertainment and Palace Sports & Entertainment — though website variations of Detroit City Soccer Club (like detroitcitysc.com) still do. PS&E has been scooping up several domain names for months in preparation for being awarded an MLS franchise, similar to politicians being proactive in acquiring campaign websites, even if they haven’t decided to run for said office.

Detroit once was considered a front-runner to land one of the next MLS expansion franchises, particularly because of the high-profile businessman joining forces. But Detroit has slipped in recent months, because of the stadium issue. Gilbert once had visions of building on the failed jail site in Greektown, a plan that appealed to MLS. But in November, the Fords joined the bidding effort, and in doing so made Ford Field — home of the Detroit Lions — the proposed home of the soccer team. The MLS, despite teams playing in football stadiums in Seattle and Atlanta, prefers its teams to have soccer-specific stadiums.

This is a mockup of a soccer configuration of Ford Field.

MLS is at 23 teams, and has plans to expand to 28. Nashville (24) was awarded a team in December, and Miami (25) in January. One more city is expected to be awarded a team in this round, and Cincinnati, closing in on a stadium deal, is believed to be the favorite for that one. MLS plans to award two more expansion franchises in the coming year or two, with Sacramento, Calif., among the other candidates.

Officially, Cincinnati, Detroit and Sacramento are finalists for the next expansion team. Charlotte, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Raleigh/Durham (N.C.), St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa/St. Petersburg (Fla.) remain in the mix for future expansion teams.