It seems like every year there's some sort of controversy over trademarks and the Superbowl. Of course, the NFL has been famous for aggressively defending trademarks. For example, it's been so aggressive in claiming that no one
other than official sponsors can even mention
the word Superbowl (even though it should be legal if used descriptively and accurately), that when many advertisers started switching to the euphemism "The Big Game," the NFL tried to trademark that too
, even though it wasn't even the one who had come up with the phrase. This year, apparently, the big issue is over who owns the phrase "Who Dat" which is apparently a catch-phrase associated with the
Superbowl- Big Game-
Final Sporting Event Of The Football Season-bound New Orleans Saints. The NFL apparently claims that it holds the trademark on the phrase and is threatening some retailers
who were offering "Who Dat" merchandise. Only problem? There's a company called WhoDat Inc., and it
claims to own the trademark. a-dub
points us to an interview with the brothers who own WhoDat Inc.
, who also recorded the Who Dat song back in the 1980s. It appears the issue, from the NFL, may be with the use of a fluer de lis with the phrase, since the NFL owns the trademark on the fleur de lis in association with the Saints. But the WhoDat folks say even there the NFL is overstepping its bounds:
"Sure, a fleur de lis can belong to the Saints, but in very specific usage, and everybody knows what that is," Monistere explained. "If you go back to 1967, to date, they have registered and used the fleur de lis in a very specific way. They put it on the Saints helmet and on the Saints 'shield.' Its colors are very specific -- they're 'old gold and black.' But for the NFL to expand that definition and say that no matter what color and what style of fleur de lis, if you put it on an item, it means Saints, it is, as many believe, is just not correct. The fleur de lis belongs to everyone including the people of New Orleans.
The Monistere brothers seem particularly annoyed by the NFL bullying small t-shirt makers, saying that they're more than happy to grant licenses to those folks to produce Who Dat
merchandise, and merchants have said that the NFL communication has been tremendously threatening and aggressive, while the Monistere's have been quite friendly and accommodating. In fact, the Monistere's seem particularly annoyed that the NFL is bullying small shop owners like Fleurty Girl, who received a cease-and-desist:
"Here we are going to the Superbowl for the first time in 43 years and these NFL guys are here harassing the local small businesses," Monistere said. "Their merchandise sales are well over $320 BILLION a year! The NFL has become an intellectual property company. They make money selling their logos and image. With that kind of money coming in, they focus their attention on Fleurty Girl? I don't have a problem with them protecting their intellectual property, but when they do it to the extent of trying to intimidate people into believing that the Fleur de lis is theirs -- well, that's just a bullying technique."
As for the New Orleans Saints themselves? The organization there has apparently publicly said that WhoDat holds the rights
on the trademark.