Skip to content

Are the Cubs Finally Ditching the Trademark Symbol on Their Home Jersey?

One of the strangest quirks in the uni-verse is that the Cubs have a little “circle-R” trademark symbol on the logo of their pinstriped home jersey. It began appearing in 1979, when the Cubs thickened the blue outline on the chest logo:

It’s never been clear why the symbol was added, but I’ve always assumed that it was included on a logo sheet that the embroiderer used to create the new logo patches in 1979, and then it just kept getting repeated after that.

But now it looks like the Cubs may finally be removing the symbol from their jersey, at least based on this ad that several readers have recently brought to my attention:

Cubs media relations guy Jason Carr has always been very helpful and responsive to my inquiries (he even got a Uni Watch membership card way back in 2008), so I asked him about this. He said he’d look into it and then got back to me with this: “Think you should go through the league on this one. Sounds like the league worked directly with Nike/Fanatics. If I get any more clarity in the meantime, I’ll let you know.”

As you probably know by now, MLB won’t talk to me about stuff like this (because I hurt their wittle feewings so many times), so instead let’s shift into FAQ mode:

This is just an ad.

Right, but it’s an ad that shows a real jersey, not a digital mock-up, so that makes it more credible.

But is it an authentic jersey?

No. I agree that this would be even more credible if it were an authentic jersey. But the replicas in the old template included the trademark symbol on both the digital mock-ups and the actual replica jerseys. So if the actual replica jersey no longer has the symbol, as shown in the new ad, that makes me think the authentic/game jerseys probably won’t have it either.

Don’t you have a source who’s been feeding you pages from the MLB Style Guide? Check the Cubs page!

Here’s the funny thing about that: When the trademark symbol was added to the uniform, it also appeared in the Style Guide — at first. But sometime in the 1990s, the symbol disappeared from the Style Guide (I’m not sure exactly when, because I don’t have every year’s edition), and it’s never reappeared since then. Check it out (we’re talking about very small details here, so you’ll probably want to click to enlarge):

The 1982 Style Guide shows the trademark symbol — not just on the home jersey but also on the blue jersey and the dugout jacket.
In the 1990s, MLB switched to a new Style Guide template, and the trademark symbol disappeared.
The 2000s brought another template change to the Style Guide, but the trademark symbol did not reappear.
When the Style Guide went online, multiple views were shown. But still no trademark symbol. 2020 is the most recent year for which I have the full edition.

So for at least the past 25 years, the trademark symbol has not appeared in the Style Guide, even though it has appeared on the field.

Okay, but shouldn’t you check the new 2024 Style Guide, just to be safe?

Yeah, that seems like a good idea. I asked my source to provide that, and he generously obliged:

As you can see, no trademark symbol. But again, that’s consistent with what the Style Guide has shown for many years now, so it doesn’t really tell us anything one way or the other. Based on the ad that started us down this rabbit hole, however, I’m thinking that they’re removing the symbol this season.

That’s a good thing, right?

In the abstract, yeah. Trademark symbols are obnoxious and unattractive, and I certainly wouldn’t want to live in a world where every team used them on their uniforms. But there was something endearing about the Cubs’ symbol — a little glitch in the matrix, sort of like the Tigers’ mismatched cap and jersey logos. Even though we’re better off without it, a certain part of me will miss it.

Wait a minute, don’t the Cubs have a little team logo on the upper-left thigh of their road pants? Has that also had a trademark symbol? And if so, are they getting rid of it there as well?

That logo has never had the trademark symbol:

So no need to remove the symbol from that logo.

Have any Big Four pro teams worn a trademark symbol on their uniforms?

Plenty of teams have worn trademark symbols that have been part of uniform ads, event patches, civic promotions, and so on. But to the best of my knowledge, the Cubs are the only Big Four team that have worn such a symbol on their own logo.


That’s it for now. If anyone knows more about this, I’m all ears. Anonymity assured, of course.

Meanwhile: For all the Cubs blogs and websites that will be tweeting about this, it would be nice if you could please link to this page instead of just saying “per @UniWatch.” Thanks!


Update: Reader Jim Walaitis just sent me screen shots of a text chat he had with Ed Hartig, who is the Cubs’ official historian. According to Ed (who I should have thought about consulting myself), the addition of the symbol in 1979 was not an accident, as I had assumed, but a proactive move by the Cubs to protect their brand:

Faaaascinating. If true, why did no other teams follow, especially as the sports world has gotten more and more brand-conscious? It feels like something doesn’t quite add up there.

Ed Hartig continued:

More fascination! Sure enough, the symbol has not appeared on the team’s holiday uniforms:

I’ve noticed this before and even pointed it out here on the blog, but I always thought it was a case of bureaucratic inconsistency, not a legalistic distinction. Hmmmmm!

Anyway, I’m still looking forward to seeing if they’re still using the symbol on game uniforms this season. We’ll find out soon enough!

Comments (41)

    Sounds like another Manfred commandment of “Thou shalt not have thine trademark visible” for no other reason than he can.

    As a Cubs fan, I panicked when I saw this post before I opened it. I was scared it was going to say that the Cubs were going to remove the bear from the sleeve for an ad patch……. PHEW!!!!! LOL

    But what about an alternate universe where the walking cub was swapped with the trademarked logo on the home pinstripes? Heck, I’d even be willing to do it on an alternate with a headspoon …

    I’d go with that on say, a solid white uniform. Might be pretty cool. I’d also be ok with adding a headspoon on the blue jerseys. Red or white?

    I would absolutely LOVE a headspoon (and sleeve trim) on the blue alts … please do SOMETHING to make them look less like a 1990s batting practice jersey!

    But what about an alternate universe where the walking cub was swapped with the trademarked logo on the home pinstripes? Heck, I’d even be willing to do it on an alternate with a headspoon …

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Nike decided that since their “swoosh” doesn’t get to have a trademark logo on the MLB unis, then no other logo gets one either.

    I’d actually believe that it was more like a really annoyed equipment guy finally won the internal “legal” battle. Once somebody in management believes every version of your trademarked logo has to have a mark or someone will be able to infringe upon it, it stays until that person and their followers are gone. Thats the experience I’ve lived with and unfortunately continue to live with.

    Sadly, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out this is the driving force in the removal at the trademark.

    That was my thought as well. And not just “if we can’t have it, you can’t,” but maybe the Nike lawyers trying to be assertive about the product being theirs… not the Chicago Cubs’

    Have the Cubs been aware of the oddity the entire time and not cared (or liked being unique)? Were they just oblivious? I remember when they kept the 16 star NL logo on their blueberry uniforms for years, even after the Astros moved to the AL bringing the number of NL teams down to 15.

    I hated that trademark logo, as well as the logo patch on their pants. If those were good ideas, other teams would have copied them.

    Well personally, I always hope for the funniest possible outcome, which in this case would be the trademark symbol no longer being on the jersey, but getting ADDED to the pants.

    First, they removed the NL sleeve patch off of the road jersey. Now the trademark. SAVE the walking Bear!!!

    Edit needed:
    “a little glitch in the matrix, sort of the like the Tigers’ mismatched cap”

    Forget the walking bear… Go back to the angry cubby bear logo.

    ,,,,And man… These Nike jerseys just look like shit in general

    How about a big R in a circle where the insignia is, and putting a tiny Cubs logo in the southeastern point of the circle?

    I can’t pretend I’m fluent in trademark law, but maybe the style guide ditched it because the images themselves were not trademarked. I can see how there could be strict guidelines for such a thing.

    If the Cubs added the trademark symbol to protect their brand, why did it not appear on any of the sleeve logos? And why would that need to be necessary on their own uniforms? I can understand why it would appear on retail merchandise. If no other team did that, why did the Cubs think they were doing the correct thing?

    The Cubs have worn raglan sleeves for a long time now, have they? One quirk I immediately noticed in the images from the style guide is the 2024 jersey in the guide being depicted with raglan sleeves again, like the 1982 style guide while the style guides of 1999 and the 2000s depicted the Cubs with set in sleeves.

    I thought from the get go that it was someone in management thinking that they had to do it to protect the trademark, because our former branding manager believed the same thing. She is still under the impression that if the logo appears anywhere without the mark it will allow others in to infringe upon it. The equipment staff has always been against the mark appearing on actual uniforms. Even pointed out that the swoosh on the jerseys never has a mark. My best guess is that the equipment staff (or perhaps new brand manager)finally won the battle and convinced management that it was unnecessary after decades of a dumb opinion.

    There is one case – and I recall it vividly, as I even recall submitting it to Uni Watch back in the day! – of another team wearing a registered trademark symbol in their primary crest. The New York Islanders did so when they introduced the Edge version of their 1970s-styled royal blue jersey as a third back in 2008. It did disappear after a time, though I’m not sure how long. An example is shown, though, on the Unofficial NHL Uniform database, on this page: link (though the focus of the image is actually to note the change from the original three stripes on the stick to four, which remains to this day, as a nod to their 1980s dynasty).

    That little trademark symbol is a fun uni quirk that I’ve always liked. Seemed so random. I hope it ends up staying.

    Paul, the MLB Style Guide has been referenced in several of your articles recently, and you’ve mentioned someone “feeding” you information from it. I don’t understand the secrecy. Why isn’t the guide available to everyone, whether you’re a fan, journalist, retailer, etc? Also, you mentioned not having some of the past guides. Aren’t past guides available online? I would think think MLB would have all past style guides available as an accurate reference for anyone doing research.

    1) The current guide includes info that is not yet public (such as the info I have been reporting on). That’s why it’s secret.

    2) The guides also includes specs that would make things easier for counterfeiters. That’s why even old ones are not made available to the public. They’re commercial tools, not research tools.

    3) Not all the guides are online — only the ones going back to the early 2000s. I have hard copies for some of the 1980s and ’90s editions, but not all of them.

    The “slow drip” also means more clicks and page views for UW and more quick/digestible for readers.

    The “circle R” symbol isn’t just a trademark, it’s “registered with the trademark office”. “TM” means trademark. There is a huge difference. “Circle R” gives the holder greater legal protections.

    The number font on the style guide looks incorrect to me. Cubs numbers have always been rounded, not block, in my memory.

    Both ’99 and ’03 numbers were wrong, as well as the ’99 NOB font, so if something that prominent is wrong, how much in these style guides are we supposed to take as gospel?

    More great info from the style guides. I hope you post all the style guide info you have before you ride off into the sunset.

    I think it looks very amateurish for a team to wear their own team logos with a trademark or registered symbol. Official team wear should never include a circled r or a TM or something like that. As much as I like strange and unique tweaks I am glad if the Cubs get rid of it.

    Placing the R symbol has no legal impact on whether the Cubs have a trademark so my guess is they’re lawyers finally told them they could remove it.

    Wasn’t there a time in the 90s where their jersey just said “Cubs” accross the chest? Or was that their away jersey?

    A mi en lo general me gusta el detalle. Se ha convertido en algo más de nuestro equipo y le da un estilo diferente que el resto no tiene. Al principio tengo q confesar que me asusté, creí que los Cachorros dejarían de usar trajes a rayas de home club por uniforme blanco completo o algo así. Como amante de la tradición odio los cambios.

Comments are closed.