Texas A&M Sues Indianapolis Colts Over “12th Man” Trademark

By Joseph Mandour on November 19, 2015

football1Orange County – The “12th Man” is a phrase used in football to signal a connection between a team and its fans. Since each team puts 11 players on the field, the 12th Man is used to describe the fans, and their impact, as if they were another player. The phrase is also the subject of a lawsuit filed by Texas A&M against the Indianapolis Colts.

The 12th Man phrase originated in 1922 when a high number of injuries resulted in Texas A&M calling a player from the stands to suit up. Standing by as a 12th player the whole game, he didn’t end up playing, but he did become a symbol for the Texas A&M spirit. The university embraced the phrase and eventually trademarked it in 1990.

Since then, Texas A&M has taken legal action against teams and individuals who use the phrase without authorization. Two NFL teams, the Buffalo Bills and the Seattle Seahawks, pay licensing fees to Texas A&M to use the phrase in varying capacities.

A third NFL team, the Indianapolis Colts, currently uses the 12th man phrase without the permission of Texas A&M and without providing compensation. The Colts use the phrase in marketing materials, as the name of an award given to fans during games, and in their stadium as part of the Ring of Honor (used to highlight individuals who made a significant contribution to the organization).

Texas A&M originally contacted the Colts about the phrase with a cease and desist letter in 2006, and again in 2008. The Colts never responded. Now Texas A&M has filed a lawsuit in a district court in Houston, requesting that the Colts cease use of the trademarked phrase, destroy uses of the trademark in merchandise and advertising, and pay the university’s attorney fees.

Texas A&M argues the 12th Man trademark is at the heart of the team, given it brought its fans national renown, that it strongly identifies the team to the public, and distinguishes the University in events and merchandising. Texas A&M argues that the use of the trademark by the Colts will be likely to cause confusion, imply an affiliation between the teams that does not exist, and that it will dilute the distinctiveness of Texas A&M’s trademark.

In a statement by the university, Texas A&M stated they bear no ill will toward the Colts but that the University is left with no other option since the Colts have not complied with requests to cease use.

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