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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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2015 @ 11:56am

    Anyone want to suggest that someone might confuse a jackass with a public educational institution?

    Well, there is this clock maker down in Texas.....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2015 @ 3:01pm

      Re:

      You beat me to it. I came here to say I was up for the challenge, then mention MacArther High School and Irving ISD.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2015 @ 12:02pm

    Even if he had a legal talon to stand on, Hawk has been published in the media as admitting to his bad faith trademark registrations. A judge wouldn't waste much time dismissing any case he brought after awarding attorneys fees to the school.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Steerpike (profile), 17 Sep 2015 @ 12:44pm

      Re:

      Yep. He could even run into some trouble at the trademark office, because for a 1(b) (intent to use) filing, you have to affirm that you have a bona fide intent to use the mark in commerce. His public statements appear to demonstrate that he never did.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2015 @ 12:13pm

    Still, wouldn't what he just has done as "trademark squatting"? I mean, he just registered those names as soon as he saw the intentions of using them, and with malicious purpose.

    I mean, there are laws (not sure if in the US) against cybersquatting.

    And then they complain about how internet is a lawless place?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 18 Sep 2015 @ 5:38am

      Re:

      "wouldn't what he just has done as "trademark squatting"?"

      No need to even give it a special name. If you register a trademark and then fail to use it in commerce, it's just like you didn't register the trademark.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    MO'B, 17 Sep 2015 @ 12:20pm

    Maybe get hooked on phonics

    If you were a Techdirt reader..

    Something tells me the "Hawk" isn't much of a "reader"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Steerpike (profile), 17 Sep 2015 @ 12:38pm

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2015 @ 12:39pm

    "Haakenson, who attended North Dakota State University..."

    "... to be an asshat to a university he never even attended."

    I'm confused. Did he attend or not?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mark Wing, 17 Sep 2015 @ 1:15pm

    I hope nobody has trademarked the "Fighting Assholes" because I want it. I just need a logo.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 17 Sep 2015 @ 1:58pm

      Re:

      I hope nobody has trademarked the "Fighting Assholes" because I want it. I just need a logo.

      Goatse? No, I will not provide a link. Look it up yourself if you're unfamiliar with it (or don't, and save yourself the nightmares).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2015 @ 1:15pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2015 @ 2:57pm

    Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends...

    ...Oh...wait...that's copyright not trademark infringement.

    I am claiming fair use, btw.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    The Bad Anon, 17 Sep 2015 @ 6:45pm

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

    You do know idiots and trolls read Techdirt too, right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lane, 17 Sep 2015 @ 7:58pm

    What UND shouldy actually do is...

    Quietly register the mark "Haakenson Buttheads" and then start using that name as their nickname.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 Sep 2015 @ 10:21pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dave W (profile), 18 Sep 2015 @ 1:04am

    Suggestion

    In addition to the "Most Insightful" and "Funniest" posts of the week can we just be done with it and have an "Asshole of the Week" too? 1st Nomination - this guy.

    As an added benefit I bet the page views will go up too. Disappointed page views admittedly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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