The two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl are known for heavy analysis of the participating teams, anticipation of the best commercials and party planning. Recently, another Super Bowl tradition has taken hold: the NFL’s zealous protection of its trademarks.
The latest example involves the New Orleans Saints, and the chant “Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints”, which has been utterred at Saints’ games since the 1980s. A shortened version of the chant – “Who Dat” – has appeared on T-Shirts and other apparel. The NFL, however, reportedly sent a cease and desist letter to store owners selling apparel bearing the “Who Dat” phrase.
According to Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell (via an AP article), the dispute has been resolved:
“They’ve conceded and they’ve said they have no intention of claiming the fleur-de-lis, which would be ridiculous, or the ‘Who Dat,’ which would be equally ridiculous,” Caldwell said in an interview.
The NFL is only objecting to shirts that are marketed or presented as an official Saints or NFL product, Caldwell said. Shirts that are black and gold and say “Who Dat” can be sold, he said, if they don’t purport to be Saints gear and don’t include the team logo.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy added as follows:
“People can use Who Dat all they want if it doesn’t include NFL and Saints trademarks,” said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy, in an e-mail. “We explained that we would contact merchants only if a Who Dat item also contained NFL or Saints trademarks or if it is falsely claimed that an unauthorized item is affiliated with the Saints or NFL.”
As Ron Coleman pointed out on his trademark and copyright blog, Likelihood of Confusion, the NFL’s efforts to protect its perceived trademark rights often make news this time of year. In fact, in 2007, the NFL even asserted ownership for the phrase “The Big Game.”