The Indianapolis Colts use the term “12th Man” to describe their fans, something that many high school, college and pro football teams do. But only Texas A&M has a registered trademark on the term “12th Man,” and now the university is suing the NFL team.
The Indianapolis Star reports that Texas A&M has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the Colts in federal court in Texas. According to Texas A&M, the Colts’ use of the term “12th Man” helps the team sell tickets and merchandise. Because A&M owns the trademark, A&M wants a cut.
It’s strange that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ever granted A&M the trademark in the first place, because A&M didn’t originate the term. The first known use of the term “12th Man” to describe the fans of a football team was in 1900 in a magazine published by the University of Minnesota, which referred to “the mysterious influence of the twelfth man on the team, the rooter.” Other college football teams also began using the term “12th Man” before Texas A&M famously began its use of the term to commemorate a student who came out of the stands and suited up during a game in 1922. It was only in 1990, after other football teams had been using the term for decades, that the Patent and Trademark Office gave Texas A&M the trademark.
But Texas A&M does have the trademark, and as a result the Seahawks pay Texas A&M for the right to use the term. Now Texas A&M is hoping to use the courts to force the Colts to pay up as well.