The term "Evil Empire" that started out as an insult to the New York Yankees — by Boston Red Sox president Larry Lucchino in 2002 — has now been ruled by judges to belong to the intended target.
Trademark judges ruled an entrepreneur cannot register the phrase "Baseballs Evil Empire," used to describe the Bronx Bombers, after Major League Baseball objected to the trademark application on behalf of the Yankees, saying the team had claims to the phrase.
"The record shows that there is only one EVIL EMPIRE in baseball and it is the New York Yankees," the judges wrote in their decision earlier this month.
A company registered as Evil Enterprises Inc. sought exclusive rights to sell clothing like hats, jackets, t-shirts and pants branded with the "Baseballs Evil Empire" slogan.
The business targeted customers looking for Yankees merchandise by claiming: "If you are passionate about the New York Yankees then you have come to the right place."
The term "Evil Empire" was widely used by fans and media to describe the Yankees stockpiling of superstars and dominance of the sport.
Lawyers for MLB used hundreds of news stories that used the term "evil empire" to talk about the Yankees. The team even uses the "Star Wars" soundtrack at Yankee Stadium games.
Lucchino coined the phrase after the Yankees had acquired sought after Cuban pitcher Joe Contreras. At the time a sarcastic Lucchino said, "The evil empire extends its tentacles even into Latin America."
Evil Enterprises Inc. applied for the trademark in 2008, but the judges said allowing the company to use the phrase would cause confusion to those who mistakenly think the merchandise was endorsed by the Yankees.
The Yankees declined to comment on the case. But is that Darth Vader's heavy breathing I hear coming from Yankee Stadium?