The New York Yankees are the Evil Empire, and the Evil Empire is the New York Yankees.
That’s the ruling of a panel of federal judges in a trademark lawsuit over the slogan.
Evil Enterprises, Inc. trade to register the phrase — which was coined by Boston Red Sox president Larry Lucchino in 2002 in connection with the Yankees big-spending free-agent signings — to cash in with merchandise such T-shirts and other gear using that phrase. Major League Baseball objected to the registration and challenged it in court on behalf of the Yankees.
In court papers, despite its negative connotations the Yankees claimed that by now they actually have “embraced” the moniker, according to the New York Daily News:
“Fans, critics and media widely use the term when describing the Yankees’ dominance of the sport. The team itself often plays ominous music from the ‘Star Wars’ soundtrack at baseball games.”
The court ruled in favor of the MLB and the Yankees and against the company. The court summarized its findings as follows according to the Wall Street Journal:
“In short, the record shows that there is only one Evil Empire in baseball and it is the New York Yankees. Accordingly, we find that [the Yankees] have a protectable trademark right in the term . . . as used in connection with baseball.”
Trademark disputes of this nature generally revolve around what the law refers to as the likelihood of consumer confusion. In this instance, sports fans (and perhaps even Yankee haters) might have thought they were buying official New York Yankees souvenirs because the team has become so closely associated with the phrase evil empire.
Bottom line: The Yankees are officially evil … but you knew that already.