Texas A&M Plays Hardball With A Double Amputee Over 12th Man Trademark
from the bully-for-you dept
You may recall past stories here covering Texas A&M and their aggressive protection of their trademarked phrase, “The 12th Man.” That phrase refers to the crowd within football games cheering and/or booing loudly enough to have an effect on what happens on the field of play. Even in situations where the target of A&M’s ire isn’t actually competing against the school for anything commercial, the cease and desist letters are still sent. We’ve also discussed how organizations could protect their trademarks by offering $1 licensing rights to the phrase, thereby maintaining their mark while engendering some good will.
Well, boy, you’d think that such a scheme might be best used when a double-amputee cancer-survivor starts a website in Buffalo, NY called 12thmanthunder.com, dedicated to keeping the Bills in Buffalo. But, nope, A&M still went legal on him.
Charles Sonntag co-founded 12thManThunder.com, a website for people who wanted to keep the Bills in Buffalo. The Aggies are threatening to sue Sonntag for infringing on the “12th Man.” Legally, it’s an open question as to whether Sonntag’s website actually infringes on A&M’s mark. There’s almost no likelihood of confusion between 12thManThunder in Buffalo and the College Station fan base. The Buffalo Bills — the actual NFL football team — ALSO have a deal with A&M to use the phrase. So it’s not like A&M objects in principle to other people in far off places using the 12th Man. It’s that they object to people using it without paying them a pound of flesh.
However, Charles Sonntag just happens to be a double amputee, cancer survivor who suffers from Albright’s disease. He can’t afford attorneys who can litigate this case — and he does have some kind of defense that his use does not infringe on A&M’s mark — and he can’t afford to pay A&M whatever it wants in “leave me alone” money.
Damn, I forgot about the Albright’s disease, which presents as a skin and bone deformity in the legs, arms and skull. But, hey, I guess with old Chuck missing an arm and a leg, we shouldn’t fully credit any sympathetic status for the Albright’s, right Texas A&M? I mean, he’s already chock full of PR-nightmare-fluid with the whole cancer and amputee thing. Yet, not only did the Aggies go after him, they pressed the issue when they felt he wasn’t complying fast enough.
Texas A&M spokesman Shane Hinckley said the website’s owners have been too slow to respond.
A&M wants all the 12thManThunder posters taken down (some are posted at area bars), and they want the Facebook group named changed. Did I mention that Sonntag is a double amputee? HE HAS ONE ARM AND ONE LEG! Could we give him a minute to deal with all of this?
Forget the damned minute and work out a micro-cost licensing agreement with him. Hell, can we get a more clear-cut case of trademark bullying than this?