The Detroit Pistons were founded in 1937 as a semi-professional basketball team. They were originally named the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, after their owner – Frank Zollner who manufactured pistons for cars, trucks, and train engines in Fort Wayne, Indiana. They became a professional team in 1941 when they joined the National Basketball League (NBL), becoming NBL champions in 1944 and 1945.
They then became the Fort Wayne Pistons in 1948 and joined the Basketball Association of America before it merged with the NBL to become the NBA (National Basketball Association) in 1949. The joined the NBA as a member of the league’s Eastern Conference Central Division.
Being from such a small area meant that Fort Wayne struggled to make its team profitable, despite a solid following. In 1957 Zollner decided to move the team to the fifth largest city in the USA at the time, Detroit, in order to get more support. Luckily, renaming themselves to the Detroit Pistons worked in honoring their previous legacy, and paying homage to Detroit’s infamous motor industry.
The Pistons remained true to their Fort Wayne roots for a long time, remaining in the same team colors, and keeping most of the imagery. It wasn’t until 2005 that the franchise rebranded itself to focus on Detroit’s history.
Despite having many talented players during the 1960s and 70s, the Detroit Pistons didn’t see much success after many questionable trades and frequent coaching changes. They were known as having the “worst management in the league”. Zollner sold the team in 1974 and the team went on to have a brief period of success, qualifying for the playoffs in four straight seasons from 1974-1977. The team has had a turbulent history since then but now has three NBA championships to its name in 1989, 1990, and 2004.
Famous Detroit Pistons Trademarks
The Pistons have been on a tumultuous journey – starting as a working roots team in Fort Wayne, Indiana to moving to one of the biggest cities in the United States. They’ve been part of three basketball leagues and had a number of owners and coaches amidst struggling times of rebuilding.
Despite not having any trademarks under the “Fort Wayne Pistons” name, they’ve racked up 63 trademarks with the USPTO which shows their understanding of the importance of trademarking their assets and protecting their IP. Let’s take a look at some of the most famous Detroit Pistons Trademarks, registered by the Detroit Pistons Basketball Company.
Detroit Pistons logo
After moving to Detroit and changing their name, the Pistons didn’t vary their logo too much over their 60+ year history. However, the 1941 Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons logo was very different! This comical logo featured a man dressed in grey automobile parts with a superhero “Z” emblem on his chest playing basketball.
Once they became the “Detroit Pistons” this logo changed dramatically to a simple circular badge with “Detroit Pistons” written in a red outline in the center with some lines in the ball to give it a more “basketball” feel. This logo only really varied in color and fonts until 1996 when there was another big logo change.
This new logo featured the word “Pistons” in a fancy custom typeface with elongated lines on the two “S’s” that had flames coming out of them, resembling exhaust pipes in honor of Detroit’s car industry. Above “Pistons” was a black horse with flames as a mane – a horse was used to represent “horsepower”, again alluding to the motor industry. Their color palette changed with this logo to turquoise, red, white, and yellow.
However, this new branding only lasted a decade before it changed back to the iconic round basketball badge in 2005. Featuring a red basketball in a blue outline, and “Detroit Pistons” written in the center in white. It was changed slightly to be more minimalistic in 2017. Their latest logo was registered for a trademark in 2018 and applies to:
- Clothing, namely, hosiery, footwear, basketball shoes, basketball sneakers, T-shirts, shirts, polo shirts, sweatshirts, sweatpants, pants, tank tops, jerseys, shorts, pajamas, sport shirts, rugby shirts, sweaters, belts, ties, nightshirts, hats, caps being headwear and baseball caps, sun visors being headwear, warm-up suits, warm-up pants, warm-up tops/shooting shirts, jackets, wind resistant jackets, parkas, coats, baby bibs not of paper, headbands, wrist bands, aprons, undergarments, boxer shorts, slacks, ear muffs, gloves, mittens, scarves, woven and knit shirts, jersey dresses, dresses, cheerleading dresses, and uniforms, swimwear, bathing suits, swimsuits, bikinis, tankinis, swim trunks, bathing trunks, board shorts, wet suits, beach cover-ups, bathing suit cover-ups, bathing suit wraps, sandals, beach sandals, beach hats, swim caps, bathing caps, novelty headwear with attached wigs
- Cloth banners, cloth wall hangings, cloth, and fabric pennants; bed, bath, and household linens, bed sheets, bed blankets, comforters, curtains, draperies, quilts, bedspreads, towels, pillowcases and shams, dish towels, golf towels, textile tablecloths, and placemats, stadium blankets, throw blankets, cloth handkerchiefs, cloth flags, unfitted fabric furniture covers, shower curtains; sleeping bags, and plastic flags
- Beverage glassware, drinking glasses, shot glasses, mugs, and cups made of ceramic, earthenware, glass, and porcelain; beer mugs, tumblers for use as drinking glasses, plastic cups, wastepaper baskets, plastic water bottles sold empty, stainless steel water bottles sold empty, bowls, plates, beverage stirrers, jugs, decorative and commemorative plates, glass jars; cooking utensils, namely, grill covers; non-electric portable beverage coolers, coasters not of paper or textile, lunch boxes, bottle openers, salt, and pepper shakers, drinking flasks, insulating sleeve holders for bottles, insulating sleeve holders for beverage cans, cookie tins, drinking straws, piggy banks; hair, nail, and toothbrushes; bath accessories, namely, cup holders; laundry hampers for domestic or household use; bottle stoppers specially adapted for use with wine bottles; ceramic figurines in the nature of garden gnomes, and oven mitts
- Toy boxes and chests, pillows and seat cushions; portable and folding stadium seats and cushions; plastic key tags; picture frames; hand-held mirrors; interior roller shades for windows with suction cups; magazine caddies; wall plaques made of wood, wall plaques made of plastic; soft sculpture wall decorations; non-metal reusable bottle caps; non-metal clips for tablecloths; wooden signboards, decorative mobiles; steel furniture; recliners, chairs, and stools; tables; portable and folding sports seats and stools; furniture; juvenile furniture; bedroom furniture; clothes hangers and coat hangers; non-metal trophy cups; bean bag chairs; non-metal coat racks; non-metal stands for holding and displaying various types of balls; dividers for drawers; plastic figurines; plastic pet identification tags; wood boxes; furniture chests; gift package decorations made of plastic; plastic novelty license plates; plastic name badges, and non-metal nameplates
- Entertainment and educational services in the nature of ongoing television and radio programs in the field of basketball and rendering live basketball games and basketball exhibitions; the production and distribution of radio and television shows featuring basketball games, basketball events and programs in the field of basketball; conducting and arranging basketball clinics and camps, coaches clinics and camps, dance team clinics and camps and basketball games; entertainment services in the nature of personal appearances by a costumed mascot or dance team at basketball games and exhibitions, clinics, camps, promotions, and other basketball-related events, special events and parties; fan club services; entertainment services, namely, providing a website featuring non-downloadable multimedia material in the nature of television highlights, interactive television highlights, video recordings, video stream recordings, interactive video highlight selections, radio programs, radio highlights, and audio recordings in the field of basketball; providing news and information in the nature of statistics and trivia in the field of basketball; on-line non-downloadable games, namely, computer games, video games, interactive video games, action skill games, arcade games, adults’ and children’s party games, board games, puzzles, and trivia games; electronic publishing services, namely, publication of magazines, guides, newsletters, coloring books, and game schedules of others on-line through the Internet, all in the field of basketball, and providing an online computer database in the field of basketball
- Audio broadcasting; cable television broadcasting; radio broadcasting; subscription television broadcasting; television broadcasting; video broadcasting; web-casting services in the nature of providing online chat rooms and online interactive chat rooms with guests for transmission of messages among computer users concerning the field of basketball; broadcasting programs over the internet; providing on-line electronic bulletin boards for transmission of messages among computer users concerning the field of basketball; providing multiple-user access to a global computer information network for the purpose of participating in interactive polling in the field of basketball; wireless communications services, namely, the transmission of graphics to mobile telephones; wireless electronic transmission of voice signals, data, facsimiles, images, and information, and wireless broadband communications services
- Retail store services, computerized online retail store services, online ordering services, electronic retail store services via computer, and electronic mail order catalog services, all featuring an array of basketball-themed merchandise; promoting the goods and services of others by arranging for sponsors to affiliate these goods and services with a basketball program; promoting the sale of goods and services of others through the distribution of promotional contests provided over the internet; conducting public opinion poll surveys and public opinion poll surveys in the field of basketball for non-business, and non-marketing purposes over the internet
- Toys, games and sporting goods, namely, basketballs, golf balls, playground balls, sports balls, rubber action balls and foam action balls, plush balls for games, plastic balls for games, basketball nets, basketball backboards, miniature basketball backboards, pumps for inflating basketballs and needles therefore; golf clubs, golf bags, golf putters, golf accessories, namely, divot repair tools, tees, ball markers, golf bag covers, club head covers, golf gloves, golf ball sleeves, golf putting greens; billiard cue racks, billiard balls, billiard ball racks, dart board cabinets, electronic basketball table top games, basketball table top games, basketball board games, action skill games, adult’s and children’s party games, trivia information games and electronic video arcade game machines, basketball kit comprised of a net and whistle, dolls, decorative dolls, collectible dolls, toy action figures, bobblehead action figures, stuffed toys, plush toys, jigsaw puzzles, toy building blocks, Christmas tree ornaments and Christmas stockings; toy vehicles in the nature of cars, trucks, trains and vans, all containing basketball themes, novelty foam toys in the shapes of fingers and trophies, toy trophies, playing cards, card games, toy noisemakers, pet toys; beach toys, namely, beach balls, inflatable balls, toy pails, toy shovels, sand toys, sand box toys, water-squirting toys; pool accessories, namely, swim floats, pool floats, toy water rafts, foam floats, swim rings, pool rings, foam rings, body boards, surf boards, swim fins, surf fins, arm floats and water wing swim aids, all for recreational use; volleyball game kits comprised of ball, net, sidelines and whistle, and water polo game kits comprised of ball, net and whistle; decorative cloth wind socks; miniature stadium reproductions, namely, small toy plastic models of a stadium; snow globes; video game machines for use with television and video game hand held controllers for use with console video gaming systems; exercise treadmills, and toy banks
- Athletic bags, shoe bags for travel, overnight bags, umbrellas, backpacks, baby backpacks, knapsacks, duffel bags, tote bags, beach bags, beach tote bags, drawstring pouches, luggage, luggage tags, patio umbrellas, beach umbrellas, valises, attach cases, billfolds, wallets, briefcases, canes, business card cases, book bags, all-purpose sports bags, golf umbrellas, gym bags, purses, coin purses, fanny packs, waist packs, cosmetic cases sold empty, garment bags for travel, handbags, key cases, suitcases, toiletry cases sold empty, trunks for traveling and rucksacks, foot lockers, pet clothing, pet leashes, and pet collars
- Publications and printed matter, namely, basketball trading cards, trading cards, stickers, decals, temporary tattoo transfers, commemorative basketball stamps, collectible cardboard trading discs, memo boards, clipboards, paper coasters, post cards, place mats of paper, facial tissues, note cards, memo pads, note pads, ball point pens, crayons, felt tip markers, rubber bands, pens and pencils, pen and pencil cases, pen and paper holders, desktop document stands, scrap books, rubber stamps, drafting rulers, paper banners and flags, 3-ring binders, stationery folders, wirebound notebooks, portfolio notebooks, unmounted and mounted photographs, lithographs, art prints, posters, calendars, bumper stickers, book covers, bookmarks, wrapping paper, children’s activity books, children’s coloring books; statistical books, guide books, and reference books, all in the field of basketball; magazines in the field of basketball, catalogs in the field of basketball, commemorative game and souvenir programs related to basketball, paper pennants, stationery, stationery-type portfolios, invitation cards, printed certificates, greeting cards, Christmas cards, holiday cards, informational statistical sheets for basketball topics; newsletters, brochures, pamphlets, and game schedules in the field of basketball; bank checks, check book covers, check book holders, comic books; non-magnetically encoded credit cards, gift cards and telephone calling cards; money clips; printed tickets for sporting and entertainment events; collectible card holders and memorabilia holders in the nature of ticket holders, and trading card holders
- Jewelry; costume jewelry; beaded jewelry; rubber or silicon wristbands in the nature of a bracelet, beaded necklaces; beads for use in the manufacture of jewelry; earrings, necklaces, rings, bracelets, cuff links, pendants, charms for collar jewelry and bracelets; clocks; watches; watch bands and watch straps, watch cases being parts of watches, watch fobs; jewelry boxes, tie clips; medallions; non-monetary coins of precious metal; precious metals; key chains of precious metal; key chains as jewelry; figures and figurines of precious metal; trophies of precious metals; leather key chains; non-metal and non-leather key rings; non-metal and non-leather key chains, and decorative key fobs
- Audio recordings and video recordings featuring entertainment and information in the field of basketball; audio discs, video discs, computer laser discs, pre-recorded audio and video cassettes, pre-recorded audio and video tapes, pre-recorded compact discs, pre-recorded computer laser discs, all featuring entertainment and information related to basketball; computer accessories, namely, blank USB flash drives, pre-recorded flash drives featuring information in the field of basketball; stands adapted for computers, laptops and tablet computers; mouse pads, computer mice, compact disc cases, computer carrying cases, protective sleeves for laptop and tablet computers, wrist rests for use with computers, all related to basketball; battery chargers for mobile phones; computer programs for viewing information, statistics or trivia about basketball; computer software, namely, screen savers featuring basketball themes; computer software to access and view computer wallpaper; computer browser software for use in viewing and displaying data on the Internet; computer skins, namely, fitted plastic film for covering and providing a scratch proof barrier for computer devices; computer game software; video game software, video game cartridges; radios, electronic audio speakers, headphones and ear buds, wireless telephones, telephones; cell phone accessories, namely, headsets, fitted plastic films known as skins for covering and protecting cell phones, face plates and cell phone covers; electronics accessories, namely, fitted plastic films known as skins for covering and protecting electronic apparatus, namely, MP3 players, electronic tablets and portable digital assistant devices; covers and stands for MP3 players, electronic tablets and portable personal digital assistant devices; decorative switch plate covers, video monitors, computer monitors, binoculars; sunglasses; eyeglass frames; eyewear straps and chains; eyeglass and sunglass cases; magnets; disposable cameras; credit cards and pre-paid telephone calling cards magnetically encoded; downloadable video recordings, video stream recordings, and downloadable audio recordings in the field of basketball provided over the Internet; downloadable computer software for viewing databases of information, statistical information, trivia, polling information, and interactive polling in the field of basketball provided over the Internet; downloadable computer game software; downloadable interactive video games and downloadable trivia game software provided over the internet; downloadable computer software for use as screensavers and wallpaper, to access and display computer browsers, for use in viewing data on the Internet, for use in designing plastic film computer skins to protect computer monitors, for use in creating avatars for playing games and for use in remotely manipulating computer cursors over the Internet; downloadable electronic publications in the nature of magazines, newsletters, coloring books, game schedules all in the field of basketball provided over the Internet; downloadable catalogs provided over the Internet featuring an array of basketball-themed products; downloadable greeting cards provided over the Internet, and mouth guards for sports
Related: Trademarking a logo
In 2020 the Detroit Pistons launched a marketing campaign for their new re-imagined fan merchandise. Though it wasn’t representative of the Piston’s branding or on-court uniforms, the alternate wearables collection featured “313” written on them – Detroit’s area code. The numerical slogan was chosen to show the team’s “respect of the code” and their homage to the city. The merchandise range includes jerseys, T-shirts, and sweatshirts. They have trademarked many variations of this branding, including the 313 wordmark, a “Three One Three” illustration, a “D-UP 313” illustration, and a “Run the Numbers 313” service mark.
The “313” logo features the numbers written in black and white within a monochrome basketball. It was registered for a trademark in 2020 and is still pending application. If granted, it will apply to:
- Clothing, namely, hosiery, footwear, basketball shoes, basketball sneakers, T-shirts, shirts, polo shirts, sweatshirts, sweatpants, pants, tank tops, jerseys, shorts, pajamas, sport shirts, rugby shirts, sweaters, belts, nightshirts, hats, caps being headwear, visors being headwear, warm-up suits, warm-up pants, warm-up tops, shooting shirts, jackets, blazers, ties as clothing, pocket squares, kerchiefs, wind resistant jackets, parkas, coats, baby bibs not of paper, clothing layettes for babies, headbands, wrist bands as clothing, aprons, undergarments, boxer shorts, boxer briefs, slacks, ear muffs, gloves, mittens, scarves, woven and knit shirts, jersey dresses, dresses, cheerleading dresses and uniforms, swim wear, bathing suits, swimsuits, bikinis, tankinis, swim trunks, bathing trunks, board shorts, wet suits, beach cover-ups, bathing suit cover-ups, bathing suit wraps, sandals, beach sandals, beach hats, sun visors being headwear, swim caps, bathing caps, and novelty headwear with attached wigs
- Entertainment and educational services in the nature of ongoing television and radio programs in the field of basketball and rendering live basketball games and basketball exhibitions; the production and distribution of radio and television shows featuring basketball games, basketball events and programs in the field of basketball; conducting and arranging basketball clinics and camps, coaches clinics and camps, dance team clinics and camps and basketball games; entertainment services in the nature of personal appearances by a costumed mascot or dance team at basketball games and exhibitions, clinics, camps, promotions, and other basketball-related events, special events and parties; fan club services; entertainment services, namely, providing a website featuring non-downloadable multimedia material in the nature of television highlights, interactive television highlights, video recordings, video stream recordings, interactive video highlight selections, radio programs, radio highlights, and audio recordings in the field of basketball; providing news and information in the nature of statistics and trivia in the field of basketball; providing on-line non-downloadable games, namely, computer games, video games, interactive video games, and trivia games; entertainment services in the nature of fantasy basketball leagues, and providing an online computer database in the field of basketball
Related: Trademarking a number
In 2004, the Pistons registered “DEEETROOIIT BAAASKETBALL” as a trademark in reference to the way the commentator announced the team during home games. The servicemark was filed for a trademark in 2006 and applies to:
- Entertainment services in the nature of basketball exhibitions, games, and events
Bad Boys Unite
In the 1986 – 1987 season, the Detroit Pistons earned themselves the nickname “Bad Boys”. This was following the acquisition of some key players prior to the season which led to the team adopting a physical, defense-orientated style of play. By midseason, the Pistons improved to be on a then-franchise-record of 54 victories and won their first division title in 32 years. They also advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time since moving to Detroit. Though the team’s defensive powerhouse was known as the “Bad Boys” during the late 80s and early 90s, it wasn’t until 2014 that the franchise trademarked the term “Bad Boys Unite” in recognition of this accomplishment. They use this name for the team’s charitable services. It applies to:
- Promoting the charitable services of others by providing individuals with information about various charities for the purpose of making donations to charities; Charitable services, namely, promoting public interest in, and promoting public awareness of the need for social responsibility, giving back to local communities, and charitable giving; Promoting charitable giving that reflects the core values of the donor by providing a method to identify the donor’s core values and to select charities that foster those values. All the foregoing, to promote the sport of basketball
- Charitable services, namely, charitable fundraising services by means of organizing charity galas for local charities. All the foregoing, to promote the sport of basketball
Trademark filing is essential for any business/franchise looking to protect its intellectual property. The Detroit Pistons franchise is valued at $1.9 million, so protecting its name, branding, phrasing, and imagery is incredibly important.
The Detroit Pistons have filed over 60 trademarks which shows that they understand the value of trademarking their assets. While they’ve done well to trademark their name, team nickname, logos, slogans, and charitable arms, there’s still more they could do. For example, they haven’t trademarked their mascot, Hooper, who has been the mascot of the Pistons since 1996 and is a popular member of the team. Trademarking your intellectual property with USPTO can save you future headaches, legal battles, and a significant amount of money.