May the Trademarks Be Ever in Your Favor: Seahawks Run Registration Blitz

It looks like the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks’ IP unit is at least as aggressive as their defense.

As The Seattle Times’ Mike Baker reports, the NFL’s Seahawks have been trying to register an eyebrow-raising number of trademarks recently.

In recent years, the Seahawks have become known for their strong secondary, nicknamed the “Legion of Boom,” and their abnormally loud “12th Man” fan section.  The team has now filed to register trademarks for the word “boom,” the phrase “Go Hawks”, and the number 12, among many other things detailed in Baker’s article.

(The Seahawks’ Super Bowl nemesis, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, wears the number 12 and may have something to say about this.)

The Seahawks’ trademark tactics are particularly aggressive even when compared to other NFL franchises.  As Baker writes, the Seahawks filed 24 trademark registration applications in the past 15 months; the New England Patriots have filed only two applications since October 2013, and the Green Bay Packers have filed 36 trademark registration applications in the past 40 years.

The team has also opposed many “12”-related trademark registrations, like liquor brand “Batch No. 12” made by a distillery in Washington state (named for the number of times it took to perfect the recipe, not Seahawks fans), and it has requested time to oppose an application to register “District 12” from the “Hunger Games” series. According to Baker, the team’s attorneys have also challenged applications for “Beware of Hawks,” “Lady 12s” and “Legion of 12.”

The “12th Man” mark has gotten the Seahawks into trouble before. In 2006, the team settled a dispute with Texas A&M University, whose fan section has been called the “12th Man” since the early 1920s. Seattle acknowledged A&M’s ownership of the mark, and their agreement confines Seattle’s use of “12th Man” on promotional material to the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii, according to Kate Hairopoulos of The Dallas Morning News.

The Seahawks’ attempt to register “Go Hawks,” meanwhile, is being opposed by the NBA, home of the Atlanta Hawks, and the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks.

Seattle’s blitz of trademark applications and oppositions is understandable from an economic standpoint. You have to vigorously protect your marks to keep your registrations, the total cost of filing applications takes up a tiny part of an NFL franchise’s overall budget, and registering marks is a relatively simple way for a team to “monetize its brand” and “build assets,” as an attorney in Baker’s story said.

But still, it’s a little silly to think that anyone would confuse the poor coal-mining region from “The Hunger Games” with the Seahawks’ fan section.

It’s almost enough to make me root for the Patriots on Sunday.


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