Are lawyers the 13th man? As is tradition, everyone and their mother is trying to make money off the Super Bowl, while the non-profit organization known as the National Football League tries to ensure that nothing infringes on its profits. Understandably, the NFL wants fans to only purchase “authentic” NFL gear. On the other hand, many fans can’t or won’t shell out the very big bucks required to buy “authentic” jerseys and other souveniers. (Naturally, neither the real, nor the fake jerseys, are made in America.)
As the Seahawks and their fans learned in 2006, when the team made its first trip to the Super Bowl, it doesn’t even require the potential loss of profits to get the lawyers involved. That was the year Texas A&M sued the Seahawks for using its trademarked “12th man” phrase. The university and the Seahawks settled out of court with the team agreeing to pay a licensing fee and acknowledging Texas A&M’s ownership rights of the phrase. Which is why Seahawks fans use just the number “12” on flags and gear. Other than a licensing fee, what does it gain Texas A&M to enforce the trademark? The school and the pro football team aren’t competitors. Who wins? The lawyers who enforce the trademark.
The folks at Foggy Noggin Brewing in Bothell learned this lesson this week when they received a cease-and-desist order from Texas A&M in reference to a special batch of beer they brewed for the big game called “12th Man Skittles IPA.”
“I was blown away that this university even heard about us using that name for our beer,” Jim Jamison, manager of Foggy Noggin, told the Bothell Reporter. “I mean, the beer we made will only serve around 55 people, it’s a small keg we planned on filling.”
Jamison was obviously unaware of Texas A&M’s 2006 lawsuit against the Seahawks or he would’ve realized that the university pays lawyers to track down every “infringment” on its trademarked phrase. Or why bother to have it trademarked? (Did Skittles also protest? Or are they just enjoying all the free publicity?)
(Speaking of Skittles, and legal acumen, Seattle’s running back Marshawn Lynch trademarked his nickname, “Beast Mode.” There’s no word yet on whether his lawyers will send a cease-and-desist order to the Seattle marijuana grower who started selling a strain of weed called “Beast Mode.”)
Regardless of all the legal wrangling, don’t worry about the NFL. Even with competition from the sale of fake merchandise, revenues for the non-profit organization were somewhere just north of $9 billion in 2013.
Go, registered trademarked Seahawks. Win the registered trademarked Subpoena, er, Super Bowl.