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Aug 19, 2011 3:46 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Yankees Empire Puts Sag Harbor Entrepreneurs In Crosshairs

Aug 24, 2011 10:33 AM

Kevin Coyle and Tracy Carey have never been big fans of the New York Yankees baseball team. As fans of the Yankees’ rivals, the Boston Red Sox, they have an ingrained hatred for the most successful professional sports franchise in history.

And now that the Sag Harbor couple and the billion-dollar ballclub are locked in a legal battle over a trademark claim that the team says infringes on its logo and team reputation, they’re not likely to change their minds anytime soon.

When Red Sox owner Larry Lucchino borrowed a phrase from Ronald Reagan, dubbing the Yankees the “Evil Empire” after the organization used millions of dollars and its vast legal power to extract celebrated pitcher Jose Contreras from Cuba in 2002, Mr. Coyle laughed.

Over the years, as the Yankees handed out hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts to some of the most talented players in baseball, the Evil Empire moniker caught on among Yankees haters, and eventually as a thumb-in-the-eye badge of pride among Yankees supporters. The entrepreneurial Mr. Coyle, a professional sports and entertainment tickets broker, and Ms. Carey, a mortgage banker, smelled opportunity in the humorous slang.

As he has long had a habit of doing, Mr. Coyle came up with a catchy website domain name, baseballsevilempire.com, and registered it. The lark blossomed into an idea to make T-shirts poking fun at the team. Evil Enterprises Inc. was born. The website now offers T-shirts and caps with the Yankees iconic interlocking “N” and “Y” with the face of the Devil nestled into the crook of the Y and the words “Evil Empire” scripted in flowing cursive lettering, evocative of the font the team uses.

Mr. Coyle said that the sales of more than a thousand shirts and hats are pretty evenly split between Yankees fans and foils.

“We thought it was a funny idea—you always read about people making a stupid shirt and making money off of it,” Mr. Coyle said in his Bridgehampton office this week. “Yankee fans are such fanatics, we loved how upset they got over it.”

The Yankees fans were not the only ones upset over the new business. When Mr. Coyle and Ms. Carey applied for a trademark of the term “Baseball’s Evil Empire,” an attorney for the team picked up on it and opposed the trademark. The couple’s attorney and the team’s attorneys negotiated, and the two sides had thought they reached an agreement in 2009.

“We had a quasi-settlement agreement—we were going to put disclaimers on the website, and they were going to send us paperwork,” Ms. Carey recalled. “Then we’re told they changed their minds.”

That was the year the team opened it’s new $1.2 billion stadium—where shirts emblazoned proudly with the term “Evil Empire” can be purchased—and won the World Series. Suddenly, Evil Enterprises found that there would be no deal, and they were threatened by the Evil Empire itself with a federal lawsuit.

“They sue everybody,” Mr. Coyle said this week. “They sued the guy that made T-shirts saying ‘The House That Juice Built.’ They even sued the Yankee Candle company. They’ve got an army of lawyers for that kind of thing.”

The couple’s attorney, Jerry Dunne, said the Evil Enterprises venture is parody that is protected by law.

“The Yankees’ whole claim, without any evidence, is that people are likely to think that what Kevin and Tracy are selling is a product sponsored or approved by the Yankees. Anybody that sees their logo can instantly see that this is spoof, a parody, a joke. If parody doesn’t identify who you are making fun of, it makes no sense.”

An attorney for the Yankees referred all comments to Major League Baseball, which issued a statement, through a spokesman.

“The trademark application for ‘Baseball’s Evil Empire’ and the corresponding use of the Yankees’ marks by the applicant are clearly another instance of someone trying to illegally cash in on and otherwise trade off the goodwill of an MLB team’s identity for his or her own commercial gain without the club’s consent,” MLB spokesman Matt Bourne said in an email. “As the clubs’ trademark enforcement arm, Major League Baseball Properties is compelled to act against these and other attempts to illegally capitalize on the popularity of Major League Baseball.”

So, for now, the challenge stands and the threat of a showdown with the richest sports franchise in the world looms, nothing either of the Yankees haters at Evil Enterprises seems particularly cowed by.

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Huh? Some guy who scams the public by buying up face value tickets before the real fans have a chance to purchase them and proceeds to triple the price then goes ahead an blatantly copies a log- and he's mad at them? Sounds like they smelled more than opportunity...
Aug 20, 11 7:08 AM appended by kaluss
allegedly. :>)
By kaluss (113), Southampton on Aug 20, 11 7:08 AM
4 members liked this comment
Red Sox Nation baby!
By bchgrl83 (52), Westhampton Beach on Aug 20, 11 9:05 AM
Got rings?
By joe hampton (3461), south hampton on Aug 20, 11 11:01 AM
1 member liked this comment
The Evil Empire strikes again. And again. And again......... times 27.
By fdp (23), southampton on Aug 20, 11 11:09 AM
2 members liked this comment