A&M Officials: Hands Off 12th Man Phrase

By: David Norris Email
By: David Norris Email

COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Texas A&M University officials didn't waste any time taking action when they noticed an ad for a Florida football team using a famous Aggie phrase.

The ad for football tickets displayed the back of a Florida State University football player with the phrase "12th Man" typed out on his jersey. The phrase has been trademarked by Texas A&M since the early 90's, and was first used in 1922.

Soon after the ad ran, Texas A&M Senior Associate Athletics Director Jason Cook wrote on his Twitter page "Attn FSU: There is the one and only 12th Man, and it belongs to Texas A&M." The ad was later replaced.

Interim Vice President for Marketing and Communications Shane Hinckley said in the past three weeks, they've had to deal with six separate "12th Man" trademark issues.

"In trademark law, if you don't take action to protect the mark, you're viewed as giving up ownership of the mark," said Hinckley. "So if we were just to ignore these incidents, we would no longer be able to claim ownership of the trademark."

Texas A&M has a dedicated licensing and trademark team, but university officials also appreciate help from Aggies across the nation when it comes to spotting trademark infringements.

Hinckley said he plans to keep up the fight.

"As long as I'm here and we're doing our job, we're going to fight very hard to make sure we never lose the 12th Man trademark," said Hinckley.

The FSU ad was pulled soon after A&M officials made a friendly call to the university. In most cases, Hinckley said trademark cases can be solved as easily as that, but A&M is able to take the offending part to court under the Federal Lanham Trademark Act.

Such was the case in 2006, when Texas A&M filed a trademark lawsuit against the Seattle Seahawks, stemming from the NFL team's use of the "12th Man" phrase. The lawsuit was ultimately settled. Included in the terms, the Seahawks had to pay Texas A&M $100,000 and a subsequent $5,000 annual licensing fee for five years with a right to renew the agreement thereafter.

In 2011 the Seahawks renewed the agreement for another five years, taking the deal through 2016.

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