#TexasA&M and #Colts Reach Settlement in #12thMan #Trademark Dispute

By Joseph Mandour on February 25, 2016

football1Orange County – As part of the settlement in the trademark lawsuit brought by Texas A&M University against the Indianapolis Colts, the Colts will no longer use the phrase “12th Man”. The phase, trademarked by Texas A&M University, was being used by the Colts without compensation or permission.

The term “12th Man” is used loosely in football culture to symbolize a connection between a team and its fans. Given a team is only allowed 11 players on the field, the phrase “12th Man” recognizes the fans’ impact and involvement as significant as if they were a player on the field.

The phrase originated in Texas A&M history during a 1922 game when a high number of injuries required a player being called from the stands to suit up. While the player never ended up playing, he stood up ready to play the entire game and became a symbol for the Texas A&M spirit. The phrase, and what it symbolized, became such a part of Texas A&M culture that the university trademarked the phrase in 1990.

Over the years, Texas A&M has taken legal action against football teams using the phrase without authorization. The Seattle Seahawks and the Buffalo Bills pay licensing fees to Texas A&M to use the phrase. The Indianapolis Colts used the phrase without permission in marketing materials, as well as later adding it to their stadium as part of the “Ring of Honor” in 2007.

Texas A&M sent the Colts a cease and desist letter in 2006 and 2008 with no response by the Colts. The university brought forth a lawsuit in November 2015, arguing the Colts use of the trademark will likely imply an affiliation between the teams that is not there and dilute the distinctiveness of the university’s trademark. The university released a statement stressing they bore no ill will towards the Colts but felt they had no other option when the Colts refused to comply with their requests to cease use.

After the university brought the lawsuit, the Colts agreed to remove the “12th Man” from their “Ring of Honor” and agreed to not use the phrase other capacities (such as on marketing materials).

In response to the settlement, the Colts Chief Operating Officer Pete Ward said, “In the end we decided the phrase itself was more important to Texas A&M than to us and we didn’t feel making a change was a big issue for the vast majority of Colts fans.”

Currently, only two NFL teams are allowed to use the “12th Man” phrase (the Bills and the Seahawks). The deal licensing the “12th Man” trademark to the Seahawks expires June of this year.

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