In CrossFit, Legal

August 11, 2012

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CrossFit’s legal team runs into all species and genus of thievery of the CrossFit trademark and brand.

CrossFit defines what we do. It means we perform constantly varied functional movement at high intensity. We pursue virtuosity. We squat, we press and we deadlift. We learn and play new sports. We eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. We time our workouts. We demand measurable, observable and repeatable results. We are a part of the global affiliate community that’s over 4,000 strong.

“CrossFit” is a federally registered trademark (USPTO No. 3007458) in Trademark Class 41, which means the U.S. government and the many other countries where we have registered the mark recognize CrossFit as a distinctive identifier for fitness services (part of Class 41).

In short, CrossFit, proper noun, defines a very specific style of training, just as Coca-Cola defines a very specific soft drink. But that doesn’t stop others from trying to steal our mark and use it illegally to market a style of training similar to CrossFit or something that’s not CrossFit in any way. For us, it’s simple: CrossFit defines exactly what we do, and the name means a great deal. We fight to make sure everyone knows exactly what that name means, protecting our intellectual property, our brand and our community.

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32 Comments on “If It Doesn’t Say CrossFit, It’s ...”

1

wrote …

It'll never become a real sport unless others can use the name. How would this concept work if it ever wanted to get into the Olympics? Giving up the trademark would really accelerate growth.

2

replied to comment from STEVEN HIGGINS

We're you at the Games in California this year? If you were you saw how much and how fast this sport has grown, how passionate it's fans are, and how well it's athletes perform. The Olympics are not the "end all be all" of sport, there isn't baseball, softball, cricket, or rugby in the summer games, and I certainly saw synchronized swimming, and speed walking as events. The IOC would be lucky to have CrossFit as an event in the Olympics. The CrossFit Games are the "Super Bowl" of our sport and we don't have to wait four years to crown a new champion.

This sport had thousands participate in an online open competition; there are competitions all over the world! Use your Journal subscription to check the archives and see how much this style of training and sport have grown and changed over the past 4 years.

3

wrote …

Dale,

I agree that your message is important. I think you are in for a real challenge. Here's a sample of why, and this has been discussed in previous CFJ articles. The definition of CrossFit is vague and general and all-inclusive on purpose. This allows all the gyms to do different things as they please (and as they should be able to). But it's impossible to define what is NOT CrossFit.

Your article discussed that some impostor may use the name (or variant) to attract people to some bootcamp/bodyfit type class, however Greg A, Froning and Spealer could all bust out "5-lb. mauve-colored dumbbells" and do some aerobics class at their respective affiliates. I don't believe they ever will, but they could. 21 bicep curls for time, followed by quarter squats with the heaviest weight you can handle. This isn't CrossFit, but nothing stops affiliates from doing that.

Anything can be applied to the definition, it seems - not everything is, but it feels like an impossible battle to hold it back from becoming the next pilates or yoga.


(As an aside, aspirin is Bayer's version of acetylsalicylic acid (ASA). Drugs come off patent after a defined number of years.)

4

wrote …

Kudos to the CrossFit Legal team for swiftly dropping the hammer on the globo one town over from my small southern New Hampshire affiliate. They were advertising CrossFit classes and boasting an L-1 trainer. It came to light that the trainer had FAILED his cert, but the gym owner had no problem with straight up lying about that. Without getting nasty, suffice to say that the practices of this globo were far from virtuosity, and were many people's first exposure to the CrossFit name in our area. That sucked. Within two weeks of my notifying them, Legal had it all sorted. The globo is still selling "functional strength and conditioning", but hopefully no one will associate my affiliate with these people ever again.
Tim Sweeney, CrossFit Keene, Keene NH.

5

wrote …

"And quit Facebooking and texting about 'Xfit.' ..."
Oooh I'm so sorry Crossfit inc. I meant Crossfit(tm).
C'mon :$

6

We use XFITOC on one of our license plates. Sorry, not gonna change that up. Anyone who reads it, gets it. Any I've had it for over 5 years now. But it's just a license plate symbol of CrossFit Ocean City.

7

wrote …

Nothing wrong with protecting your brand. CrossFit is doing what any other major corporation would do and they should be applauded for that considering the economy it has created with affiliates, vendors, trainers, and now mass distribution with Reebok. Anyone who makes a living around CrossFit should be happy that the company is taking these steps to protect themselves, and maintain the growing value of CrossFit.

8

wrote …

Haha! Yeah, and stop texting LOL too! I want to see laugh out loud!

9

wrote …

There are some people who think CrossFit can either be a sport (like "football") or a brand of gyms (like Zumba® or Curves®), but it can't be both. You can’t throw an ® on the end of a sport and still be taken seriously.

If CrossFit® is the fiercely protected trademark for a chain of gyms, what is the name of the actual sport?

Just... “fitness”?

10

replied to comment from Travis Wester

Travis,

I think I've heard it called "the sport of fitness" once or twice before.

11

replied to comment from Steve & Kelley Rakow

"XFIT SBY" Sounds good to me!

12

replied to comment from Cameron Ball

For a license plate that is

13

wrote …

Excellent article Dale, Thank you!

14

replied to comment from STEVEN HIGGINS

I'll tell you why, Steve.

1. The CrossFit Games generates no income. I believe Coach Glassman said himself that it actually costs CrossFit Inc. money to run the games. Which brings me to point number...

2. The majority of CrossFit Inc.'s income comes from affiliate fees, what is it $3,500 per year now? and L1 Trainer courses $1,000 a head, not to mention $500 every 5 years for renewal.

That my friends is the big picture. Why would CrossFit Inc. be willing to make CrossFit a sport, which they would not make any money on hm? Do you think that the NBA gets paid every time kids in China play basketball?

15

wrote …

I found this article very interesting. When I was growing up, me and my friends played lots of different sports. We would play baseball or tag football in the streets, and anyone who came by and saw what we were doing knew what sport we were playing and if they asked we would say we were playing baseball or football etc. Now, if a group of teenage kids decides to play CrossFit outside in the park or in the street with no L1 Trainer among them, can they be served a subpoena for telling any passerby that they were playing CrossFit?

16

wrote …

The TM term "defines a very specific style of training". What specific style is that? All the modalities are taken from other disciplines. Mixing them used to be called cross-training. Metabolic conditioning has been utilized in sports for decades. Of course you can TM "metcon", but that doesn't mean you invented it. There is the constantly varied aspect of it, I can concede that.

Asking people to stop using terms like 'Xfit' while texting is embarrassing. Be the premier brand and stop worrying about shit that doesn't matter. There used to be an 'open source' culture that I really loved. You were encouraged to have a garage gym. Equipment ideas and training philosophies/cues were shared back to the collective.

I know people care about this stuff but I would like to see posts like this filed under business.crossfit.com or legal.crossfit.com so I can just avoid them all together. Let's get to the business of sharing ideas, knowledge and advice in The Journal.

17

Matt - No, Speal and Matt Chan could not. The license agreement requires that to be called "CrossFit" training and advertised under that auspices, it has to be identifiable as CrossFit training. We've never had to test the limits of it (i.e. have someone doing zumba and trying to pass it off under the name of CrossFit and have the definitional argument.) To a certain extent, market forces help regulate that - as well as a flagship, open-source website that shows just what CrossFit is. I get your point on the hypothetical possibility, but much like an object pushed in frictionless space could theoretically coast forever, the presence of other objects, gravity, etc. makes the odds of that almost nil.

Thanks for the comment.

On the "XFIT" issue, evidently some people are such concrete thinkers, it's just impossible for a complex thought to be conveyed concisely.

My point is this- someone else owns the mark for XFit. In Class 41. I would like for our affiliate owners to understand that and get past getting worried every time a globo calls a workout "XFit" in an attempt to trade off of our good will. That is not to say we won't go after someone if they are clearly trying to create consumer confusion using XFit - but that alone isn't enough. Second related point, we do not help our own cause - particularly Affiliate Owners who are representatives of CrossFit - when we bastardize our own trademark. Most people get this. I'll answer the sport question separately.

18

Travis - The CrossFit Games® is/are the athletic competition, the sport, The Sport of Fitness; CrossFit® is the exercise program. I hope that isn't confusing.

The X-Games doesn't seem to have a problem with being distinct enough; I think we'll do just fine. In fact, look at how their events slipped into the Olympics (I'm thinking Winter X, anyway) - it didn't kill them or their mark and brand. Additionally, the Winter X Games still carry as much or more prestige (I am told by friends in that community) as the identical events in the Olympics, largely because there is no 'country' requirement or other rules by the IOC that might bump the best of the best. At the X Games, it's simply the best folks competing, regardless of country of origin.

We definitely have challenges and trying to educate our community is the first step.

Oh, and whomever wrote something above insinuating this is about money, you obviously haven't been paying much attention for the past 10 years. It's about ensuring our Affiliates continue to have a trademark and brand to draw people in the doors and then make them better using this 'constantly varied, functional movement, executed at high intensity in a communal setting.' The Affilites/Trainers make a professional wage, make their clients (and their communities) better, and the whole thing marches on, with thousands and thousands of people getting healthier, and a confederation of like-minded trainers/business owners getting to do it 'their' way, using our recipe.

19

wrote …

It drives me nuts to see parasitic companies use similar names to try to live off of what coach Glassman and CrossFit have done. It really is pitiful and slimy.

20

wrote …

Perhaps this won't work (and I'll be tarred and feathered), but I want to use an example to test my understanding of the problem (see next paragraph). The journal article tells me that the Crossfit trademark protects the style of training, but then the article spends the majority of time focusing on the use of the term CrossFit in *marketing* a CrossFit workout. So isn't the trademark really protecting the right to label a gym "CrossFit," one that delivers a professional service and distintive community and is certified by the CrossFit corporation? Why would one care to focus on protecting the workout itself? Don't we want the rest of the world to absorb the benefits of CrossFit-style workouts? Do we really believe everyone must either CrossFit in a non-commercial garage gym or an approved CrossFit gym? The CrossFit gym is where you go to get the best, most authentic experience, but why should CrossFit be concerned if others adopt the CrossFit workouts so long as their not using the term CrossFit in any of their marketing?
Would it be a trademark violation if someone opened a gym called "Functional Fitness" --a clearly different name-- and had just one class each day that was almost the same as the WOD posted on the CrossFit main site except that one exercise was substituted? This gym does not in any way refer to CrossFit. I gleaned from the main site's "terms and conditions" that the site can be used for commercial purposes only with CrossFit consent. But being that the "Functional Fitness" workout is technically different, it shouldn't be a trademark violation. Is that correct? If not, doesn't this reinforce some of the other comments that CrossFit cannot police the *style* of workout worldwide and to do so is folly and misguided?
I apologize if this comment doesn't help advance the discussion.
Thanks for the thought provoking article.

21

replied to comment from Ben Rost

Dale can correct me.
From the legal stand point I don't think that CrossFit, Inc. can do anything about people competing with them using their workouts under a different name. At least as far as copyright goes.
If the competitors try and claim that they are the developers of the exercise program and demand that CrossFit, In. or its affiliates pay them to use CrossFit, Inc.'s workouts, the IP lawyers earn their retainer. And I'm sure there are other cases where that would be the case.
I think that CF, Inc. would regard the practise you describe as rude, but they have fish to fry closer to home.

That's kind of what's happening in some places. If people want to adopt CF's methodology and call it something else, they're left alone. Not exactly shunned, if they do it politely they'd be welcomed into the fold if they saw the advantages to affiliating. If they try and claim the CF name, that's when the battle starts.

Quite a few affiliates with zero start-up capital start out that way. They certify and affiliate when they can afford it and HQ welcomes them.
It's not a point of law, but the intent of the people involved carries a lot of weight.

22

replied to comment from Craig Massey

Man, really wish I could edit that post.
Hopefully you can get past the mangled grammar and typos to see my intent.
I think I need an early night.

23

replied to comment from Dale Saran

Dale,
Thanks for the response.

It's still hard to define what is "identifiable as CrossFit training". I fully agree with the CrossFit approach, and the ten aspects of fitness (strength, power, speed, agility....and so on). However, a few years back I predicted, that the vague definition allows for anything to be considered. The softball throw and sledgehammer workouts emphasized this. Next year, there could be a slam dunk competition (furthest away from the net, or max height on the rim!) or miniputt - going through the old windmill takes accuracy! I recognize that miniputt is silly - but golf is considered by many a 'legit' sport (but that is debatable). Nevertheless, CrossFit gyms could have a softball throwing day. Or they could do a strength phase and do 5-3-1. Or a gymnastics phase. Etc. Periodization is now common it seems at many gyms. However, it also seems to be the antithesis of CrossFit - again this is a different debate (periodization is not constantly varied), and not for here. But with all the different styles of doing CrossFit, it seems like a real challenge to define who is doing what! I can't see how you can overcome in that in the long run - but I agree that Joe's Xfit or whatever it popping up as a blatant rip off to take advantage of CrossFit's popularity is bullshit.

Dave Castro,
if you're reading this, CF Games 2013 idea: Maximum height at which the athletes can dunk. Or max height box jump!

24

wrote …

The legal team got them self into a mission impossible..
Why would you restrict the way people want to move.
What's wrong when Mr. Bob's regime is a 'Crossfit' inspired regime.

Can Mr. Bob use this tagline for his business: "Bob's Gym - Not Crossfit" ?

25

wrote …

I guess it didnt matter back in the days when there were no affilliates, when we would all just do our thing in commercial gyms, garages etc. Spreading the word of Crossfit.
Yes they are protecting there brand, but they wouldn't be where they are today, if people weren't doing there workouts and labelling what they are doing Crossfit.
The wise will seek out the best gym/boxes. As he says Cream rises to the top.

26

Bridget Lemley wrote …

CrossFit borrows certainly from other disciplines (like, the oly lifts, box jumps, etc on their own are not unique to CrossFit).

I guess there's a fine line with this stuff. Kind of like when Bikram patented a certain sequence of yoga postures that have been around in India for thousands of years!

There's a fine line when you cross from an organization that supports community to a corporation looking for profit.

27

wrote …

In Mexico, they have Cross PowerFit certifications...

28

wrote …

Not an hour after I read this article I saw this on advertised on FaceBook:

http://www.performbetter.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/SeminarsDisplay?catalogId=11801&categoryId=2010510&langId=-1&storeId=10151

Last time I buy equipment from them...

29

replied to comment from Jason Simon

Jason Simon, I think you'll find this is for Group Exercise (x can be short for exercise, not just cross) Fitness Summit. especially considering Perform Better advertise on mediums such as the Strength Coach Podcast who hate CrossFit.

my understanding of this article is CrossFit HQ is trying to protect 2 things:

1. intellectual property, naming rights etc. I can't open up a gym and call it a CrossFit gym without paying my fees to CrossFit. fair enough

2. they want to protect CrossFit the product - having anyone and everyone doing "CrossFit workouts" which may in fact be nothing like the ideals of CrossFit, damages the brand. if someone goes and does a workout labelled as CrossFit at their local globo gym and its bad, they will then say "CrossFit is bad" - even though what they've done isn't actually CrossFit.

however all that being said, I think CrossFit here wants their cake and to eat it too. they can't tell everyone its a product that you can't copy the name of, but also its a sport that they want you to compete in.

30

replied to comment from William Ortiz

Excellent points. They are getting a little carried away with themselves.

31

replied to comment from Dale Saran

What a crock.

You guys have simply repackaged a form of training that has been around for decades. Just because you call squat thrusts "thrusters" doesn't mean that you invented anything. Athletes have been using metabolic conditioning for years to get ready for their competitive season. The only difference is that they actually play a SPORT.

Crossfit is ONLY the name of a gym. It will never be its own style of training because you didn't invent the squat or the press or the dead lift. That is my biggest problem with crossfit corporate. Just be a gym and stop trying to take credit for exercises and training that have been around for ever. The only thing you may be able to take credit for is a rep scheme, and throwing random things into a serious workout. Your programing overlooks one of the fundamental parts of any program which is an END IN MIND. You get around that by using terms like "constantly varied" but in reality it is an excuse to throw random workouts at people with no real thought. That is why the BEST affiliates are the ones that program for themselves, have experienced coaches, and only use crossfit for what it is good for, the name.

You guys should be focusing on your biggest problem which is quality control.

32

wrote …

What the crap has happened to Crossfit? I stopped logging in for two short years and when I come back the company has sold out to a third rate shoe company struggling to make it in a world with Nike and Under Armour kicking their ass every day and attorneys are posting articles on the Journal because they are worrying about people capitalizing on their name brand. Wow!

I came to Crossfit because it felt grassroots and the workouts kicked my ass. Executing a daily workout without having to think about it was cool too. HQ is turning this into a 3 ring circus. Stealing your ideas?? Nike sold Cross Trainer shoes in the 80's with Bo Jackson as their spokes person. Does that mean they can sue Reebok for producing a Crossfit shoe? Hell no. It should flatter Crossfit affiliates when someone says "It's like Crossfit" when describing their workouts the same way Coke gets flattered when people say Check Cola is like Coke. It actually brings people to the original product instead of repelling them away because people want the real thing. Unless of course they cant afford the real thing in which case they weren't going to join an affiliate anyway.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXVAiFBEpwA&feature=player_embedded
Bo Jackson....The First Crossfitter??

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