A fair bit of branding is trying to carve out your own space in the marketplace wheels still hewing close enough to the general themes of the industry to be identified as being of the same ilk. It's maybe not the perfect example, but the one front of mind to me is Dr. Thunder, the soda you see sold at Wal-Mart that's clearly meant to evoke Dr. Pepper. You know what you're getting when you buy Dr. Thunder — something similar in taste to Dr. Pepper — but it's not so close in name as to be actionable. Wal-Mart's version is evocative without being entirely derivative.
"Derivative" is often a pejorative that's been tossed at Major League Soccer in the years since it rebranded many of its clubs, adding "FC" and "Real" and "United" to team names to try and conjure comparison to older, richer, more traditional leagues and teams across Europe. It's clumsy, to be sure — how can a club be united if there weren't preexisting clubs to unite, and what does a team in Salt Lake City have to do with the King of Spain are questions without answers — but free of questions as to their legality. Or at least until this point.
The recently-christened Inter Miami has lost an early legal battle in its bid to retain its name. As detailed by Pro Soccer Talk, The expansion MLS team, set to make its debut this season, was sued by Football Club Internazionale Milano for infringing upon the Italian club's trademark with its sobriquet. While there are many clubs that have Inter as part of its name — an argument MLS made in its defense — it's accepted among soccer fans that "Inter" refers to the Milan club, 18-time champion of Italy and thrice champions of Europe, with the other clubs as derivations thereupon.
It's an argument that the USPTO seems to agree with, as they dismissed the MLS argument that clubs around the world use the same name, stating that MLS "didn't meet its burden" to prove "valid proprietary, or ownership, right in the name, Inter." It's a setback for the league and the club, one that has seen its share of setbacks despite having global icon David Beckham as an owner. Perhaps given the club's difficult birth, a potential name change after one year would be less traumatic for a nascent fanbase that has thus far only known a turbulent existence. Still, it would be an embarrassment to the league to lose such a public battle, and to have its already-derided naming conventions marked as insufficiently creative in a court of law. Maybe they can see if "Miami Sound Machine FC" is available.