King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Texas A&M sues Seahawks over use of "12th Man" and Seattle for use of "Sea" and "at."


Salon Staff
January 31, 2006 10:00PM (UTC)

Texas A&M University is seeking a restraining order against the Seattle Seahawks over the NFL team's use of the phrase "12th Man" in its marketing campaign. The school says it created the slogan in 1922 when a student was recruited out of the stands to suit up as the team struggled with injuries. The university has trademarked the slogan twice, in 1990 and 1996.

The Seahawks began referring to their fans as "the 12th Man" two decades ago, retiring the jersey No. 12 in 1984. The tradition has regained steam in the past few years, and Texas A&M says it wrote to the team in each of the last two seasons, with no reply.

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A university spokesman says the school "certainly has no ill will toward the Seattle Seahawks," but "we have the responsibility and legal obligation to protect the university's trademarks, which in this instance is the '12th Man.'"

It seems at first glance like one of those ridiculous, tin-eared, this is why people hate lawyers kinds of stunts, but hey, that's how it works when you own a trademark. You have to defend it or you might lose it.

Texas A&M University has just announced that it's seeking a restraining order against this column for use of the term "hey," which it claims to have trademarked for use in a sports context after having first used it in 1911.

A&M had gone to Dallas to play Baylor in 1904, and some students who traveled to the game picked up a chant to make fun of their big-city rivals: "Whatta we got that they ain't got?/Hay, hay, hay!" At some point, "hay" became "hey," and a thousand lawsuits bloomed.

I'm a rational person and I try to see the reason in seemingly unreasonable arguments made by people who don't appear to be crazy, but come on, all sorts of football teams refer to their fans as "the 12th man," just as basketball teams refer to "the sixth man" for their crowds and baseball teams sometimes talk about a "10th man" in their stands.

Texas A&M University has just announced that it's seeking a restraining order against this column for use of the phrase "come on," which it claims to have invented when students yelled it to encourage the chariot-racing team in 59 B.C.

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In other legal news, the estate of the late Los Angeles Times sports columnist Jim Murray is preparing a lawsuit against every sports columnist in America for this week's column making fun of Detroit, the Super Bowl host city, as poor, cold, crime-ridden and depressing.

At least that's something this column would never do.

Author James Frey has just notified this column of his intention to sue for trademark infringement, claiming he has proprietary rights over proclaiming things in print that are not true.

Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chris Henry already had enough trouble on his hands. Facing a marijuana beef stemming from a December traffic stop, Henry was arrested over the weekend on firearms charges.

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Now he faces lawsuits from Michael Irvin and Allen Iverson. Irvin says that possession charges stemming from traffic stops are his bag, while Iverson claims ownership of gun raps.

"Of course my client was acquitted of the charges," said Iverson's lawyer, whose name I don't feel like making up, "but it made good business sense to trademark the athlete's firearm arrest."

The Los Angeles Clippers and St. Louis Blues have issued cease-and-desist orders to each other, each claiming the other has stolen its act. The Clippers say the Blues' futility this season is an obvious rip-off of the Clippers' trademark results, while the Blues argue that the Clippers' good but not great showing has obviously been taken from the Blues' playbook.

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A lawsuit is likely.

Brett Favre is threatening action against Jerome Bettis for infringing on his trademark of hinting that this season will be his last. Bettis also faces a lawsuit from Greyhound over use of his nickname, "The Bus."

And President Bush is suing Michelle Kwan and the U.S. Figure Skating Association for the decision to place Kwan on the Olympic Team despite her having missed most of this season with injuries.

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"The president has trademarked starting the game on third base," a fictional Justice Department official said on the condition of not having a name made up for him.

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Correction [PERMALINK]

Reader and writer Michael David Smith points out that I made an error in Monday's column. Referring to the new package of eight late-season games that will air on Thursday and Saturday nights on the NFL Network, I wrote that both CBS and Fox, which carry Sunday afternoon games, "can specify five late-season games that can't be snatched by the NFL Network."

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That's not true. I confused the NFL Network deal with the flexible-scheduling part of the new NBC Sunday night deal. Fox and CBS can each block five games from being moved to Sunday night by NBC late in the season.

The offending sentence has been removed from Monday's column.

Previous column: NFL Network gets package of games

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