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The Cubs are not happy with an unauthorized mascot

Jul 19, 2013, 9:00 AM EDT

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If you outlaw outlaw mascots only outlaws will be outlaw mascots. Or something:

When is a cub, not a Cub? When he isn’t sanctioned by the company which owns the copyright.

That’s the plight of John Paul Weier, who for the last six years, has been playing the role of “Billy Cub”, a cuddly bear figure who strolls the sidewalks outside Wrigley Field, posing for photos and clowning with fans before and after Cub games.

Except Billy Cub is not sanctioned by the Cubs. And he puts out a tip jar in a small Igloo cooler and some people complained to the Cubs when one of his employees cussed them out last year. It’s like the freakin’ wild-wild west. Except fuzzier.

But I gotta say, after this bit, I’m inclined to be on Billy’s side:

Citing allegations of trademark infringement, the League sent Weier a 100-plus page letter, ordering him to stop wearing the Billy Cub costume, and engaging in “unabated Mascot Activities.”

After consulting with a lawyer, he ignored it. And the next day, he said he was confronted by a Cubs executive.

“Someone came up to me, very angry, and said, ‘did you not get our letter?’”

Problem was, Weier was in costume and in character at the time. And since Billy doesn’t speak, he says he just stood there, gesturing and shrugging, as the executive in question got angrier.

“Unabated Mascot Activities?” Yeah, you go with that, MLB.

Video here:

  1. anthonyverna - Jul 19, 2013 at 9:13 AM

    Is that a Cubs cap on the outfit? (I forget if that’s a Cubs road jersey from some odd year and can’t be bothered looking it up.) Certainly looks like it.

    If so, then the lawyer has a point. (Though I never though 100-page letters did anything but inflate my billable hours. . . says the trademark lawyer.)

    • fanofevilempire - Jul 19, 2013 at 9:18 AM

      this will certainly make the Cubs fan forget another year without a WS win.
      good job Chicago Cub Executives.

      • baseballici0us - Jul 19, 2013 at 12:21 PM

        Seriously, do the Cubs not remember last time they messed with a mascot/pet? I dunno, a certain Billy Goat?

    • paperlions - Jul 19, 2013 at 9:57 AM

      I don’t think the Lawyer has any point. Wearing licensed apparel is not copyright infringement. Making and selling it is. Wearing licensed apparel while working or begging is also not a violation of any ownership rights the Cubs may have. For example, if a bar around the corner buys Cubs jerseys to use as “uniforms” for their staff, that is not a violation of any “rights” the Cubs may own. If the bar made the Jerseys, perhaps, but if you buy the stuff, you can wear it doing pretty much anything you want to.

      • drepi - Jul 19, 2013 at 10:58 AM

        If this guy is on Wrigley property doing it, then the organization has very valid legs to stand on. This isn’t just about wearing apparel.

        This is about a guy who is impersonating the organizations mascot, on their own property, taking photos with people (who may or may not know he doesn’t work for the cubs) and even taking money from people in the form of tips.

        If he were to go ape nuts one day and hurt someone….you know very well that the organization would get sued. This guy is liability problem for the them. He needs to go down the road with his tip jar.

      • paperlions - Jul 19, 2013 at 3:05 PM

        He’s not on their property though. He’s on the sidewalk, which is public right-of-way. If he was on it, obviously they would have him arrested for trespassing.

        All sorts of businesses use sports imagery to make money, apparel, decorations. If he wants to act like an ass and get his picture taken with fans and makes a few buck, who the fuck cares?

        He is not any sort of liability to the the Cubs as he is not affiliated with them in any way. The fact that someone may think he is affiliated is irrelevant, because that assumption has no bearing on liability.

      • anthonyverna - Jul 19, 2013 at 11:59 AM

        And drepi wins. When you are making money with it, then trademark rights come into play.

        Now, as for a bar or restaurant where the waiters and waitresses may wear apparel, that’s different, unless that apparel is being used in promotions and advertisements of the establishment.

  2. onbucky96 - Jul 19, 2013 at 9:18 AM

    He should have dressed as th Hamms bear. Its from the land of sky blue waters…

    • kopy - Jul 19, 2013 at 9:58 AM

      I know it’s Friday but it’s not even 9 AM yet and you’re torturing me.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Jul 19, 2013 at 2:15 PM

      And it has the same distinct taste as sky blue waters, but with bubbles.

  3. jcmeyer10 - Jul 19, 2013 at 9:24 AM

    God I wish I could have been there to see him just stick to his character. Being a mascot is tough business.

  4. Blackhawks5xchamps - Jul 19, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    I actually know this guy in the costume. He has been trying for around five years to get the Cubs to make him an employee with no luck. To be honest the guy is a wierdo/douche anyways, so It’s not surprising that they won’t hire him.

    • jcmeyer10 - Jul 19, 2013 at 10:05 AM

      Yah, it’s one of those things where the outside of Chicagoans see the Cubs trying to shut down a lovable mascot when in reality, they wouldn’t shut something down they felt comfortable with.

  5. rbj1 - Jul 19, 2013 at 9:41 AM

    Come on Craig, as a lawyer you should know that companies have to enforce their copyrights at all times or else risk losing them. And yes, it leads to stupid results like this or a school having to cover up a Disney mural they painted, but that’s what the law is.

    Don’t like it, complain to Congress.

  6. heyblueyoustink - Jul 19, 2013 at 9:54 AM

    Add another 100 years to the curse.

  7. albertmn - Jul 19, 2013 at 10:24 AM

    I would think they might be able to limit him within a certain distance to the stadium, at most, but kind of difficult to just stop him from wearing what he wants to wear. Although, if he is representing himself as an employee of the team in any way, there may be an issue. But, those are both just guesses, as I am not a lawyer nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

    • jcmeyer10 - Jul 19, 2013 at 12:42 PM

      Next thing you know the ACLU and Fuzzies are coming to his defense.

      • mybrunoblog - Jul 19, 2013 at 2:30 PM

        I doubt the ACLU gets involved but I wouldn’t be surprised by a new city ordinance outlawing mascots from working within 5 blocks of a pro sports teams venues. Either that or an ordinance requiring them to be licensed and charge them $2500 or $5000 for a “vendor” license complete with background check and permit.

      • derklempner - Jul 19, 2013 at 3:58 PM

        mybrunoblog, the city of Chicago already has a law stating that street performers must have a license to perform. It’s not expensive (less than $100, if memory serves me correctly), and chances are that Billy already has one if he’s doing everything else by the books.

        But you raise a good point.

  8. El Bravo - Jul 19, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    “unabated Mascot Activities” is better than “masturbating Mascot Activities” at least.

    • tdravens - Jul 19, 2013 at 11:46 AM

      nice El Bravo. I certainly would enjoy a Conan bit with “Masturbating Bear” wearing a Cubs jersey outside the park.

  9. chiadam - Jul 19, 2013 at 10:57 AM

    He should change his name to “Billy No-Fun DBag” and wait for Epstein to sue him for copyright violations.

  10. sosascork - Jul 19, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    Did they send the same letter to Ronnie Woo Woo?

    • Alex K - Jul 19, 2013 at 3:26 PM

      To my knowledge no one gives Ronnie tips.

      • derklempner - Jul 19, 2013 at 4:00 PM

        To my knowledge, nobody gives Ronnie any attention, either. Other than annoyance or contempt at his constant noise-making, that is..

      • jasonin46304 - Oct 15, 2013 at 8:58 AM

        Actually…years ago a dentist gave Ronnie a brand new full set of teeth..something that would not have been given to an everyday fan hanging out. Ronnie is in the same boat as this billie. Ronnie poses for pictures wears the logo and everything else…he might not take tips, but he makes money big time from his wearing the Cubs uniform and yelling like a moron. Ronnie also does appearances… AND has a documentary out that he is profiting from woolife dot com .

  11. thetooloftools - Jul 19, 2013 at 11:53 AM

    He might get a little respect (and better tips) if he dressed as the Chicago Bull.

  12. qcubed3 - Jul 19, 2013 at 1:43 PM

    I think everyone is missing the point here: there was a 100+ page letter written to this guy. A 100+ page letter!? How is that even possible? If I were the cubs executives, I would be far more upset that my lawyers wasted this much time on this matter. And, if they hired outside counsel to write this letter, that it cost me that much money.

    • mybrunoblog - Jul 19, 2013 at 2:33 PM

      The letter is only a page or two. The other 98 pages contain the actual laws/statutes that he is violating and probably include relevant case law as examples.

    • derklempner - Jul 19, 2013 at 4:01 PM

      The Cubs have in-house counsel. It was a two-person team when I worked there.

  13. whealman2013 - Jul 19, 2013 at 1:59 PM

    Seems to me that the Flubs should stick to baseball and trying to field a winning team, not harassing some guy who is within his rights to do what he is doing; i.e., not on Cubs property, legally purchasing the costume and, entertaining the fans who happen to love it! The way he handled the suit from the front office is classic. I can not say in this forum what I would have used the 125 pages of legal high jingo for.

  14. onbucky96 - Jul 19, 2013 at 3:08 PM

    Fuzzies? I think you meant Furries…Furry night at Wrigley, keep your kids at home.

    • jcmeyer10 - Jul 19, 2013 at 5:01 PM

      Haha yah, thank you. I was trying to make a joke. Obviously I’m not one of them since I don’t know what they are called…

      *Checks to see if you are still looking at me*

  15. ptfu - Jul 19, 2013 at 4:17 PM

    The video said he gets $400 in tips on a good day. Assuming he averages $250/day (I pulled that number from thin air), then he’s getting about $20,000 in tips over the 81 home games. Subtract $4,000 for a new costume–he replaces it annually–and that’s $16,000 per year. That’s nothing to the Cubs. Why don’t they just hire him, and then they have control over everything?

    • gloccamorra - Jul 19, 2013 at 8:19 PM

      “Why don’t they just hire him, and then they have control over everything?”

      Then when they replace him, he’ll file a wrongful termination suit, and claim ownership of the character, seeking royalties going back years, and become a celebrity, guest-hosting Saturday Night Live, using skits to skewer the Cubs’ front office. Snowball rolling downhill, and all that.

      • gloccamorra - Jul 19, 2013 at 8:21 PM

        BTW, check out how Ted Giannoulas, the “Famous Chicken” got started.

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