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Who Owns the 12th Man? Texas A&M Prevails Over Soap Company in Trademark Dispute

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Most football fans have probably heard the term ‘12th man’ mentioned before during a broadcast. With 11 players on the field at any given time for each team, the 12th man is often used to refer to the crowd that can provide the home team with a little extra boost through its enthusiasm and energy.

While many football fans are familiar with the term, far fewer fans are aware of the fact that the trademark for this phrase is actually owned by a specific football program. The Texas A&M Aggies, the SEC powerhouse from College Station, own the trademark for the phrase 12th man.

In 2016, the Seattle Seahawks, the NFL team that is often associated with the term, agreed to pay Texas A&M $140,000 for a five-year limited right license to the trademark. Recently, The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) once again reaffirmed the Texas A&M football program’s right to the trademark. This time, the football team prevailed over the Washington Soap Company.

Texas A&M Has Demonstrated Longstanding Use and Public Exposure 

In its decision published on July 12th, 2018, the TTAB found that the Texas A&M football program has demonstrated a longstanding use and widespread public exposure to the term ‘12th man’. This is because the university has used the term in a wide range of commercial enterprises. Specifically, Texas A&M has used the 12th man to sell memorabilia, raise money for the team and the school, and in its stadium during games.

For this reason, the TTAB ruled in favor of Texas A&M football in its claim against the Washington Soap Company. The university had filed a legal challenge to stop the Washington Soap Company from registering its own 12th man trademark. The small Mukilteo, Washington-based soap company was seeking trademark protection for a proposed product line marketed under the term ‘12th man hands’. Essentially, this product is a puck-shaped soap bar that is largely marketed at young male consumers.

Texas A&M was able to prove a reasonable likelihood of confusion among consumers. This is a required element in trademark infringement cases. This is where the Seattle Seahawks connection to this case matters. The soap product was designed to be marketed and sold largely in the NFL team’s home state. While there was no official connection to the NFL franchise, the company acknowledged that the product was being used to sell soap to Seahawks fans. The TTAB determined that this connection was sufficient to establish a reasonable likelihood of confusion,

Get Help From a West Palm Beach Trademark Law Attorney

At Pike & Lustig, LLP, we fight tirelessly for the legal rights and financial interests of our clients. Our trademark litigation lawyers are proud to serve individuals and companies throughout South Florida. To get more information about our services, please do not hesitate to reach out to our law firm today at 561-291-8298 (West Palm Beach) or at 305-985-5281 (Miami) to get fully private legal guidance.

Resources:

ttabvue.uspto.gov/ttabvue/v?pno=91223136&pty=OPP&eno=23

abcnews.go.com/Sports/seahawks-reach-year-licensing-deal-texas/story?id=41307444

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