There’s a tradition unlike any other in the business world: You protect your property to keep others from making money off it without your blessing.
It’s why the people at Augusta National have successfully trademarked an item closely associated with one of the world’s most famous annual sporting events.
The Masters is big on traditions
The Masters has an advantage over more than 90% of all the professional golf tournaments because it is one of the sport’s four grand slam events. But there’s more to Augusta that makes it revered among players and fans: Tournament week is built upon traditions.
First, there’s the Par 3 Tournament, a nine-hole event early in the week that establishes a relaxed, cordial atmosphere. Many of the pros play it with a couple of short irons and a putter, which are often lugged around by their young children as spectators soak in the give-and-take between players.
There is also the ceremonial tee shot to kick off first-round action on Thursday. Greats of the game including Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Gary Player showed up at the course each year just to take part in that simple tradition.
In no particular order, there are also concession prices kept preposterously low at the members’ insistence, network telecasts that Augusta’s management insists cannot be crammed with commercials, and the Tuesday evening champions dinner.
Augusta has trademarked the Green Jacket
The first-place finisher each year puts on the Green Jacket with an assist from the previous year’s winner of The Masters. The tournament started in 1937 but the tradition dates to 1949 when the jacket was awarded to Sam Snead following the first of his three victories at Augusta. It is modeled after those worn by Augusta National members.
The jacket is kept by the winner for a year and is then returned to the club, where it stays only to be worn there.
Augusta National has gone to court in the past to prevent the sale of green jackets that too closely implied an affiliation with the country club and its signature tournament. There was also a battle in 2017 with an auction house that had sought to put three genuine jackets up for bids, with Augusta National contending that they were stolen property.
Opportunists will have to tread more carefully than ever now. The club had already previously registered a trademark in the words “Green Jacket” but word emerged this week that Augusta National, after failing in its first attempt a year ago, has successfully trademarked the jacket design itself.
“Applicant and its Masters and Green Jacket brands are some of the most recognizable marks in not only the golf industry but the country as a whole,” the club said in its application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last year. “The fame of applicant’s mark has continued throughout the operation of the Masters Tournament and, if anything, has grown in distinction and recognition every year.”
Why is the Green Jacket trademark so important to Augusta?
Money is a subject not obsessed over at Augusta National. The club gives CBS a break on the cost of broadcast rights to The Masters in exchange for the limited commercial interruptions. In return, the network agrees to play by a set of rules that includes not mentioning prize money on the air.
Augusta previously trademarked many products over the years, including lines of jewelry and other merchandise branded with the club or tournament’s name and images. Those items have set prices, be it $79 for a bracelet or $30 for a golf hat.
The Green Jacket, though, is different. Its actual value and perceived value are two entirely different matters and Augusta National doesn’t want its brand damaged by knockoffs or associated with bidding like the one in 2013 at which the Green Jacket belonging to Horton Smith, the first winner of the Masters, sold for $682,000. The successful trademark applications for the words and the jacket are a step toward maintaining control of their valuable property.