Tracing Two 12th Men

Texas A&M officials are closing away from sitting down with their attorneys and mapping out the case for their 12th Man. And with the Seahawks just days away from their first Super Bowl appearance, there are questions as to whether they'll show up in Brazos County, or even ask for a change of venue.

A&M officials say they believe the odds of Thursday's hearing happening is "50-50."

A statement from the university went out to students, faculty and staff today. In it, A&M says, "We are not driven in this matter by concerns about any lost revenue in the licensing process. It is simply a matter of principle-ensuring that nothing infringes on the 12th Man concept and its Texas A&M uniqueness."

But regardless of what -- if anything -- happens Thursday, the road to get to this point has been bumpy.

Ask for opinion on the 12th Man from Aggies, and you'll get some variety, but all passionate.

"It's been our tradition for a long time, so I definitely think they shouldn't be using it at all," said Aggie Amy Bradley.

"I just hope it doesn't affect our university as far as our reputation goes and gives us a bad name," said student Devin Sigler, "but I do understand that it is our 12th Man and it is our tradition."

But now, two traditions of the same name are now heading for a collision in court, one that has been avoided in the past.

The Buffalo Bills were asked to stop using the 12th Man moniker, and said they would oblige, though a peak at their website Tuesday shows a fan-determined award carrying that name.

For nine days this past December, the Chicago Bears had a 12th Man Honorary Captain competition to decide who would represent the fans on-field before their divisional playoff game. Tuesday, officials with the Bears said they were indeed contacted by A&M, and would carefully consider use of the term in the future, though they couldn't rule out potentially using it at some point.

Do a Google search on 12th Man, and you'll find everything from Cornell University football t-shirts, to a high school in Bloomington, Indiana, and their 12th Man Club.

But it is the Seahawks who have raised A&M's ire as they raised the flag on a Super Bowl season.

The university first asked Seattle to stop in 2004. The Seahawks replied that they would. But in an October 2004 letter, A&M said they had seen numerous 12th Man mentions on the Hawks website, and again asked them to ensure that such use is discontinued.

Just days later, Seattle responded, saying it would be difficult and expensive to prove A&M was harmed by a northwest pro team's use of the 12th Man. They offered a one-time license payment of $10,000 for a 10 year use of the term, and promised not to only use it for referencing fans for local promos.

A&M wrote back a few days later, and said it could take up to 60 days to respond.

But 301 days later, Seattle wrote A&M that they still hadn't seen a response, that the $10,000 offer was still on the table, and that they would continue using 12th Man.

"If A&M legally has [the 12th Man] trademarked, then [Seattle] needs to handle that situation first before they use it as their own," said Aggie Katie Arrowood, though she said she wouldn't have a problem with the Hawks using the term.

Fellow student Jeremy Swonky said, "For the Seahawks to take it is not right. It's ours first."

Since 1922, a 12th Man has resided at Texas A&M. Whether it's legally resided elsewhere will be up to the courts to decide.

"You have the rights to use that mark on your goods and services for as large of an area as that prevents confusion to consumers," said Marcus Hammack, a registered patent agent. "They have superior rights since 1922 on that mark, but only for the region large enough to prevent confusion on that mark."

Texas A&M trademarked the 12th Man name in 1990 and again in 1996. Seattle has been calling their fans the 12th Man since early in the franchise's 30-year history.


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