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Lifelong fan sues Cubs again, alleging team ripped off World Series commemorative idea

Daniel Fox, of Michigan, said the Cubs stole his idea for the ivy-based trinkets that were sold by the team— for $200 a piece — after the World Series in 2016.

The “Fox Commemorative” (far left) compared to the commemorative items the Cubs made for sale after the team won the 2016 World Series.
The “Fox Commemorative” (far left) compared to the commemorative items the Cubs made for sale after the team won the 2016 World Series.
Court exhibit

A Michigan man and lifelong Cubs fan has filed his second lawsuit against the team, alleging that the Major League Baseball organization essentially stole his decades-old idea for commemorative trinkets that were sold — for $200 a piece — after the team won the World Series in 2016.

The suit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Chicago on behalf of Daniel Fox.

Fox alleges that in 1984, as the Cubs were closing in on a National League East crown, he came up with the idea for commemorative souvenir to mark the team’s success.

“In its finished form, the Fox Commemorative is a five-by-seven-inch rectangular sculpture based on Wrigley Field’s ivy-covered walls,” the latest lawsuit states. “It features a single ivy leaf [from Wrigley Field], encased in a Lucite block. Above the leaf is the title ‘The Year the Ivy Smiled.’”

Fox knew he couldn’t sell the product without a license from the Cubs, since the idea incorporated some of the team’s trademarks. So on Oct. 25, 1984, he and the team entered into a licensing agreement, “which granted him the non-exclusive right to use the Cubs’ trademarks in the Fox Commemorative. In return, Fox agreed to pay the Cubs royalties equal to ‘ten percent [10%] of the Net Selling Price’ of all Fox Commemoratives he sold,” the suit states.

The agreement also stipulated that Fox was the “originator and owner” of the idea, though the license expired a year after it was entered.

Fox alleges that the team approached him about making more of the commemorative pieces in 1987 and 1989, but neither team outperformed the 1984 squad, so the Cubs tabled the idea, reserving it for “truly memorable years,” Fox alleges.

In 2001, then-Cubs Senior Vice President of Marketing and Broadcasting John McDonough called Fox and told him that the team planned to introduce a “variation” of his commemorative souvenirs that would not encroach on his intellectual property rights, Fox says. He claims McDonough told him that he would not compensated.

After Fox threatened legal action, the matter was dropped and no commemorative piece like that was produced, he alleges.

In 2015, as the Joe Maddon-led Cubs were emerging as a force to be reckoned with, Fox reached out to the team to inquire about reproducing his commemorative item.

He reached out to the Cubs Vice President of Sales and Partnerships, who told him, “This isn’t something we’re going to pursue at this time but happy to stay in touch,” the suit states.

A year later, after the team won its first World Series title in 108 years, the Cubs began selling their own commemorative — one that bore a striking resemblance to Fox’s, he alleges.

“The [Cubs’] 2016 Commemorative is a rectangular sculpture, with a single ivy leaf, encased in a block of acrylic material,” the suit states. “The Cubs did not contact Fox about selling 2016 Commemoratives or obtain his permission to do so. Nor have they compensated him.”

The Cubs produced 2,016 of those commemorative items that were available for purchase for $200 plus shipping and handling.

A Cubs spokesman declined comment.

Fox’s attorney did not respond to requests for comment.

Fox filed another lawsuit against the team in August 2018, also alleging copyright infringement by the Cubs for the production of the commemorative items.

That lawsuit was dropped in October 2018, court records show.

In his new suit, Fox says that he went to the United States Copyright Office to apply for registration of his commemorative pieces. He was denied a copyright and appealed, though was denied again in June 2019, according to his new lawsuit.