A belated valentine from Baseball Prospectus
The Fed Ex man arrived yesterday and he wasn’t bringing a rush order from Amazon.com
Look at those words and consider what they mean. One is a
children’s reading book or an instruction manual. The other is a
rundown of a mutual fund’s investment strategies. Sound the words
out. Pro-spec-tus, Pri-mer. Would an average fan understand the
difference between those two words? Or would they become confused and
think they are one and the same. Look at the
Baseball Prospectus site
and our site. Do they
look the same, have the same feel? Would you confuse one with the
other? What about Baseball Abstract, Analyst, Almanac, America,
Weekly, Insider, Digest, Archive, Journal, Stats, Statistics,
Handbook, Chronicle, Scoreboard, Project, Projections, Encyclopedia,
Reference, Gazette, News, Newsstand, Research, Reporter, Guide,
Register, Program, Prospects, Prospect, Pros?
We thought long and hard about what to name this site. We bandied
about different names for about six months. It needed to have
“Baseball” in the title. It needed to be a suitable name for a book.
It should be easy to spell. It should present the image
we want to present—mainly a group
of baseball fans interested in teaching, learning and talking about
baseball. And it should be distinctive from anything else on the
market. We didn’t choose this name lightly and we really like what it
says about us.
Given that, we were taken aback when Federal Express delievered a
letter from Keith Law, Gary Huckabay, Chris Kahrl and Keith Scherer,
Esq. stating that our “use of the name, www.baseballprimer.com for
the display of remarkably similar, if not identical, content is not
only a violation of both federal and state trademark and trade name
law, but also rises to the level of copyright infringement and unfair
competition.” (here is the letter in
We take these charges very seriously. We have not stolen any
And if we have cited or paraphrased their work, it was in a way that
was consistent with
use. Perhaps they are upset that we critiqued some of their
abuse points, but review and critique fall well within the fair
use guidelines. We cited our sources, we provided links to their
site, and we bent over backwards to be collegial and constructive. It
appears to us that the folks in charge at Prospectus can’t stomach any
criticism of their work. (Though, we don’t believe this is necessarily
true of their authorship at large.) Anything remotely similar to
their work is viewed as hostile, but they have no qualms incorporating
other’s sabermetric breakthroughs such as
McCracken’s DIPS or Charlie Saeger’s defensive measurements.
There is nothing wrong with doing that, so long as you ask for
permission, but there has to be some give and take.
As for the other charge of trademark infringement. Here are a
couple of sources on that.
The big question as I see it whether people are confused by
Baseball Primer and Baseball Prospectus. Primer and Prospectus sound
different, they have different meanings, and looking at them they
don’t even look that similar. Almost any baseball site will have
“Baseball” in the title, and we don’t believe readers are so stupid as
to confuse a business report and childhood reading book. If fans were
able to keep Baseball Analyst and Baseball Abstract
straight for six years, how could our names be close enough to cause
We will leave things like “growing the brand” and
“protecting market share” to the folks at Baseball Prospectus.
Regardless of what we call ourselves, we are going to be your
preferred source of baseball news and analysis because we aren’t
afraid of feedback, criticism or what others have to say.
We aren’t going to hide behind an “Esq.” when someone produces a
baseball site our readers might enjoy. In fact, we want to be the
first ones to point it out to you. We aren’t going to wait until four
days before opening day to Federal Express a “cease and desist” order
attempting to shut down what we view as a competitor (notice that our
Web Hosting Service Communitech.Net
was cc:ed the letter). We aren’t
going to wait until a site gets a little publicity in Sports
Illustrated before we tell them they have to stop using a name they
took months to come up with.
We’ve tried to be good neighbors with Baseball Prospectus. Sean
Forman and many others here have
repeatedly, and we’ve even
folks to buy their book. Just last week, I
a contest they were running. Is this the act of somebody
practicing “unfair competition”? If only Prospectus would give others
the same respect, they so boldly expect from everyone else.
We are talking with some lawyers and will assess the right action
for us to take, but there is one thing we can guarantee. We are going
to be your favorite source for baseball news and analysis, and we
promise not to sue even if you disagree.
We want to hear what you think, so leave a comment for us below.
Who’s right, who’s wrong.
Posted: March 29, 2001 at 06:00 AM | 10 comment(s)
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