from the hut-hut-lawsuit! dept
Texas A&M has a long history of defending its registered trademark of "12th Fan" to ridiculous lengths. Between threats to breweries, threats to double-amputee cancer-survivors, and generally serving as the template for the Seattle Seahawks' own idiotic over-enforcement of a rival 12th fan trademark, the university has managed to foster a climate of permission-culture over a phrase that has become commonly used in American football circles. See, the 12th man refers, in most cases, to fans of football teams that show up and make so much noise as to influence the opposing team on the field. Lots of teams have used the phrase over the years, including the Indianapolis Colts. Well, the Texas A&M lawyers have finally had enough and have brought suit against the Colts, hilariously claiming that football fans might see the Colts' use of the phrase and think there's a connection between the school and the professional football team.
Texas A&M president Michael K. Young said in a statement from the school that the Colts have used the trademark "without our permission after repeated attempts to engage on the matter."Well, that's certainly true, but the point is that those past actions were equally ham-fisted and hilariously disingenuous when they claimed that football fans would somehow draw a direct association between a Texas university and a professional football team or beer-maker over the use of the phrase. This is no different, in that it isn't at all about customer confusion, but rather about licensing deals that are quite lucrative for the school. The previous spat with the Seattle Seahawks, for instance, resulted in the Seahawks licensing the use of the phrase. That particular deal wasn't as lucrative, because the Seahawks can afford skilled lawyers, too. In fact, the $5,000 whole dollars per year the Seahawks pay Texas A&M every year for use of the phrase is so small as to be laughable. But if you can string a bunch of those licensing agreements together, while bullying smaller entities into other licensing arrangements? Well, then you have a decent amount of money to talk about.
"We bear no ill will toward the Indianapolis Colts," Texas A&M University Chancellor John Sharp said in the statement. "We simply want them to respect our trademark rights. Our actions are consistent with our previous trademark enforcement efforts in this regard."
Still, it's high time that somebody out there pushed back on the laughable claims Texas A&M makes in its trademark filings. Keep in mind that the use of the "12th Man" phrase by the Colts amounts to it appearing in one place in its stadium to honor fans and in solicitations for tickets. From this, Texas A&M claims:
Defendant's unauthorized use of the mark 12TH MAN in connection with its professional football entertainment services and its various products is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive customers and potential customers as to an affiliation, approval, license, endorsement, sponsorship, or other connection with Texas A&M, when none exists.That's obviously not true. The phrase, at this point, has become so commonplace for use among football fans that nobody is even thinking about origins when they hear it. Certainly nobody going to a Colts game is thinking about the A&M Aggies. By my reading, the filing doesn't even attempt to show any instances of actual confusion, probably because none exists.
Hopefully the Colts will do what the Seahawks didn't and mount an aggressive defense.