Come See An Uninformed Asshole Try To Trademark-Corner A School Into Keeping Their Unwanted Nickname

from the fail dept

Look, to be fair, trademark law has become such a convoluted mess, and there have been so many public examples of companies and people trying to bend that mess into uses it was never designed for, that navigating the rules for trademarks can be difficult. With that said, it’s somewhat satisfying to watch a jackass troll try to use trademark in the employ of his trollitude, all while knowing enough about the law to know that he has no shot of success. This is the story of the University of North Dakota and its attempt to give itself a new nickname.

Earlier this year, the UND created a committee after taking open submissions for a new nickname to replace the old nickname, the Fighting Sioux. Turns out some of the local tribes weren’t thrilled at the use of an Native American tribe’s name in this way, so the university agreed to replace it. The committee then whittled the list down to five potential candidates: Fighting Hawks, Nodaks, North Stars, Roughriders, or the Sundogs. But then a total non-problem reared its ugly head.

A man by the name of Marlan “Hawk” Haakenson, who just so happens to be the former mayor of Bismarck—the capital of the state and its second largest city—went ahead and registered trademarks in the state on Fighting Hawks, Nodaks and North Stars, and only declined to register Roughriders and Sundogs because of already existing registrations.

He reportedly wants the school to keep the old nickname, so he’s attempting to register for trademark anything else the school might call itself. And he really thinks this is going to work.

Haakenson, who attended North Dakota State University but says he’s a supporter of the Fighting Sioux nickname, said he registered the trade names Fighting Hawks, Nodaks and North Stars with the North Dakota secretary of state in order to prevent UND from using them.

“As far as I’m concerned, [UND president Robert] Kelley will never get permission from me,” Haakenson said. “I’ll use every legal means I have to stop him from using the names.

You, the Techdirt reader, are probably already laughing at this. After all, “every legal means” in Haakenson’s arsenal in this case turns out to be “zero legal means”, because this isn’t going to work. For Haakenson’s trademark to be valid, he must be using it. And, by using it, I don’t mean using it to be an asshat to a university he never even attended. He has to use it in the marketplace. He won’t be able to demonstrate he’s done so. And for any infringement case he might bring against UND to be valid, he’d have to demonstrate that he and UND were in the same industry and that the usages were likely to be confused. Anyone want to suggest that someone might confuse a jackass with a public educational institution? I didn’t think so.

Which is why UND is apparently dismissing Haakenson’s attempt entirely.

UND spokesman Peter Johnson said Haakenson’s trade name registration shouldn’t prevent the nickname selection process from going forward.

“We would not be engaging in any real estate activity (using the trade names) so that shouldn’t be an issue for us,” Johnson said. “It’s not uncommon to have the same name among sports teams. But it’s even more common to have the same names in different endeavors.”

Nice try, sir. If you were a Techdirt reader, you would have already known this was futile.

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Companies: university of north dakota

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Comments on “Come See An Uninformed Asshole Try To Trademark-Corner A School Into Keeping Their Unwanted Nickname”

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Steerpike (profile) says:

He should set up an account on one of those online sites where you can sell shirts, hats and stuff with custom wording or logos on them. Just keep the store active so that anyone who wants can order shirts from him with the registered names.

I suspect that even if he is only able to stop other people from selling shirts with just those names on them, the school won’t be happy about it 🙂

The school will still probably have the name of the actual institution in its use (maybe dominant, maybe not), so an infringement case still might be hard to sustain, but if the school knows that it also can’t stop him selling shirts and other apparel with the name on it, doesn’t that reduce the value to the school?

Anonymous Coward says:

This is about as ridiculous as it gets because I simply do not see the courts allowing those trademarks to stand. That would be similar to someone registering the name of a store when they discover that you’re going to open a business with that name. Seriously. I just don’t see any court in this country allowing him to keep those trademarks.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

I’ve not had to use this one for a while…
Christ what an asshole.

I would not be shocked to see him running for public office shortly, using the battle cry of don’t let them steal our heritage. (The irony will be lost on so many people.)

He has publicly stated his goal was just to lock the names up, and the wheels of justice should spin up to speed cancelling is trademark and whatever punishment is appropriate to someone filing a bogus trademark registration. The downside is in the current atmosphere that has been cultivated in this country, him being punished as he should be, will make him another martyr for ‘good people’ to cling to trying to pretend the world isn’t changing and who are willing to fuck everything up to get their way at the expense of everyone else.

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