KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) – With Kansas City headed to their first Super Bowl in 50 years, fans can't get enough Chiefs gear, and t-shirt shops across the city are selling their own versions of Chiefs-related apparel.
For store owners that can mean walking a fine line. Making custom gear with the city’s favorite NFL team’s logo may seem innocent, but if they’re not careful, merchants could get into a lot of trouble.
Katie Martincich, Charlie Hustle’s Chief Marketing Officer, said the apparel maker works hard to make sure they don’t cross the line.
“We’ve got really talented designers who navigate through those waters and really come up with some creative ideas,” Martincich explained. “We’ve definitely had designs that have been really cool and exciting that we’ve never gone to print with just because we do want to ensure that we’re being good partners to everyone involved.”
So, what exactly is legal? The Chiefs own various trademarks. In fact, according to attorney Bernie Rhodes, they own more than 20, “for things like Chiefs, KC, the Arrowhead logo.”
Rhodes explained that only the Chiefs have the right to license someone to use these logos. If not, then makers need to get creative with their designs.
“You can’t trademark a number because there’s lots of people with the same number,” Rhodes said. “Kansas City… you can’t trademark the two colors, red and yellow. And “Touchdown Kansas City,” guess what? That’s what happens when we score.”
In some cases, Rhodes said law enforcement can seize counterfeit goods, or the business could be ordered to pay the Chiefs all of their profits.
Martincich noted that her company works with the Chiefs and is constantly communicating with them about their products.
“We create the designs with the approved marks. Then we always run it by them to ensure that it’s approved by their channels,” she explained.
Charlie Hustle also has agreements with certain players, like “Stone Cold” Chris Jones, where they work with that player and their agent to create a design that embodies the spirit of that player without infringing on any trademarks.