The Oakland Athletics announced Wednesday that the manufacturer for its “StOAKed” t-shirts will stop selling the shirts after an Oakland teenager claimed the MLB team stole the phrase from his clothing company.
The East Bay Express reported Jan 6. that 16-year-old Oakland Tech student Ryan Frigo was caught by surprise — and definitely not stoaked — when he found out that the A’s were selling t-shirts similar to the brand he had established in 2012.
"It was the exact word I created," Ryan told NBC Bay Area in a Skype interview Tuesday from Buenes Aires. "I was shocked. That's how I know it wasn't a coincidence."
Ken Pries, vice president of communications for the A's said Wednesday that the team had contacted MLB, who contacted the manufacturer — Majestic Athletic — responsible for clearing all slogans used on their t-shirts. “Majestic found the trademark application had been abandoned and believed they were clear to proceed with the term “StOAKed,” Pries said. “As a gesture of good will, Majestic is no longer selling or producing the shirts and will destroy all unsold shirts.”
Pries added that the A’s had talked to Ryan and hoped to meet him when he’s back in the U.S. from Buenos Aires.
According to Pries, 126 t-shirts were sold online through the league's website with sales totaling $2,770. No shirts were sold at the team stores.
In an email to Pries, Ryan thanked the A’s for stopping the sales of the shirt, but added that his brand was “diluted” by the use of “StOAKed.” “Although the A's aren't responsible for the production of the product, they are responsible for the damage,” Ryan wrote.
Ryan told NBC Bay Area that the A’s were willing to make a donation to an Oakland non-profit.
“If they are willing to make a donation, perhaps they could find ways to support stOAKed, and further the creative spirit, celebrate the diversity, and support the young entrepreneurs of Oakland,” Ryan said.
Ryan says he created the “StOAKed” brand to combat negative perceptions about his city, Oakland. "My goal from day one was to use apparel as a vehicle to uplift Oakland," he said.
In a Jan 5. blog post on the Stoaked website, Ryan pointed out that “even if it was a coincidence, any professional is expected to, at the least, Google ‘stoaked.’ If they had done so, this website would have come up first. Either they directly stole from stOAKed, did not bother to do a second's research, or did not think twice about infringing on the company.”
However, trademark lawyers say Ryan’s case is legally weak, explaining that in this particular case, the MLB and the A’s are arguably not using the term as a trademark, but as an "ornamentation," just like Nike uses "Killing It."
Lisa Fernandez contributed to this report.