Nine Years Later, Patriots Get '19-0' And 'Perfect Season' Trademarks, Despite Doing Neither

from the i'm-sure-those-will-sell-well dept

Nine years ago we had a post about some of the ridiculousness surrounding trademarks and the Super Bowl (a popular topic this time of year). In particular, we mocked the fact that the New England Patriots had filed for some trademarks in the week before the Super Bowl. Then, as now, the Patriots made it to the Super Bowl, but that year they had done it with a perfect record, winning all 16 games in the regular season and the first two playoff games to go 18-0. They were heavily favored to win the Super Bowl, and had filed for trademarks on both “Perfect Season” and “19-0.” Of course, the NY Giants came away with quite the upset and sent the Patriots home as losers. Given that, we were kind of surprised a few months later to discover that the Patriots were still seeking the trademark on “19-0,” despite the fact that its actual record for the season was a demoralizing 18-1.

I pretty much stopped following it after that and assumed that the Patriots probably gave up as well. But, no. ESPN now tells us that nine years later, the US Patent and Trademark Office has approved the trademarks. No. Really:

Though it has been nine years since the Patriots nearly achieved an undefeated season, the team just now has gotten around to trademarking “Perfect Season” and “19-0.”

The Patriots have gone through the process with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and, in December, trademarked the two slogans through their parent company, The Kraft Group, online records show.

Of course, you might wonder how the hell the Patriots can claim “use in commerce” for these, since the team didn’t have a perfect season and didn’t go 19-0.

The one complication with those two filings is that, while thousands of T-shirts were printed commemorating a perfect Patriots season, none of them were ever sold. Emblazoned with an event that didn’t occur, they instead were shipped to other countries.

The rationale for getting “Perfect Season” is even more bizarre. The Patriots claimed they “licensed” the phrase to apply to a high school championship.

Having to prove that they deserved the right to the phrase, the Patriots apparently licensed “Perfect Season” to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, which produced a DVD of the 2015 state football championship game between Xaverian Brothers and Central Catholic high schools. Xaverian prevailed, winning its 24th straight game (spanning two seasons).

Voila. Use in commerce?

Of course, it still makes you wonder why the hell the Patriots still wanted to trademark 19-0. It’s not like they really have much use for it at this point. If they eventually do have a 19-0 season… well, then it’s still a dumb idea. And are the Patriots now going to seek to block any other NFL team from trying to sell T-shirts if they were to have a 19-0 season? Or are they assuming that only the Patriots could possibly ever achieve such feats?

Either way, when we first reported on the 19-0 trademark application, we noted that the NY Post had gotten snarky and filed a trademark application for 18-1. That application was eventually abandoned… as were five other similar attempts to trademark 18-1.

Except for one. As you might notice, that top one was granted. A guy named Raymond William Mort got the trademark for “World Chumps 18-1” back in 2012 (he applied right after the Super Bowl in 2008). Congrats Mr. Mort.

I’m not sure if he’s actually selling T-shirts or anything, but he did create this lovely graphic:

I’m sure it’s selling like gangbusters.

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Companies: new england patriots, nfl

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Comments on “Nine Years Later, Patriots Get '19-0' And 'Perfect Season' Trademarks, Despite Doing Neither”

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art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

not for nuthin, but the whole deflategate bullshit was just that, bullshit…
only reason it went anywhere is the other owners making a mountain out of nothing to beat the patriots over the head… (good article at SI or somewhere that stripped away all the lies and misinfo to get to the meat of the matter… )
dont give a shit about brady or the pats (dont watch a lot of pro ball), but they were wrongfully screwed on that…
lastly, think the trademark crap is crap, too…
some other sport, debate team or spelling bee champ goes 19-0, they cant put that on a tee shirt ? ? ?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

To be fair… in the trademark system, you don’t need to have a registration to technically hold the trademark. Common law trademark is actually pretty powerful. So, they could argue that they held a common law trademark on the phrase, and thus could license it, and then use that to get the registration.

I think some could make a reasonable argument that they never had a common law trademark either, but…

ShadowNinja (profile) says:

Being able to trademark a term as generic as ’19-0′ and ‘Perfect Season’ is just ludicrous.

Statements like ’19-0′ and ‘Perfect Season’ are facts, not things for people to identify you with. Any other team in any sport (or heck even video game tournaments) could get the same 19-0 record, or ‘perfect season’.

So what would the Patriots do if they start to brag about their factual record, sue them for playing exactly 19 games and winning them all?

freedomfan (profile) says:

The Patriots (and other trademark trolls) are idiots about this, but...

The real problem is the trademark system and the USPTO. The very notion that someone can get any kind of legal protection for some obvious phrase because they happened to register for it first is idiocy and it encourages this sort of trolling. This is a case (and seems common in this regard) where those phrases could apply to dozens of organizations across scores of sports and non-sports. They should have to make an affirmative showing that the phrase in question should only reasonably apply to their brand/product/team before the USPTO even considers the application. For example, they should have to show that the phrase would only reasonably be associated with the Patriots and not the next (or previous) team that gets a 19-0 record or has an undefeated season. And, then, the claim should be evaluated critically. Basically, one real or likely valid counter-example should result in denial of the application. And, if it is granted, the clear precedent needs to be that the exclusivity is to be applied narrowly (only to within the narrow market of the trademark holder) and only to protect against a strong implication of commercial association with the trademark holder.

I think the Patriots and similar companies deserve to be thought of as slimy for engaging in these sorts of IP antics. But, the rules and the bureaucracies that administer them encourage the antics in creating a system where there is little to lose and much to gain with these nonsense trademarks. If we want this sort of thing to stop, then 1) stop granting the applications willy-nilly and 2) don’t make them such an broad and easy-to-abuse legal hammer.

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