Texas A&M sues the Colts over use of “12th Man”

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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.

128 responses to “Texas A&M sues the Colts over use of “12th Man”

  1. Steve Jobs didn’t think a “mouse” was an important part of a desktop computer.

    Bill Gates did, so he patented it.

  2. Oh give me a break. If this nonsense goes through, I want to trade mark

    “just sayin'”

    I’ll clean up.

  3. It is a stupid term used by teams that are unoriginal and cannot come up with anything better.

    The Hags had to use that term to sell jerseys because for too long, they didn’t have any players worth marketing.

  4. Pat Reilly trademarked “Three Peat” back in the 1980s while coaching the Lakers, who never won three in a row.

    20 years later, when the Bulls won their third NBA Championship in a row (against the Lakers), Reilly got the proceeds from all the Bulls merchandise that said “Three Peat” on it.

  5. Come up with your own identity and stop using others Texas A&M and Seahawks. It’s pathetic.

  6. Should sue the Seahawks for taking it. Although most Seahawks “fans” have no idea what I’m talking about since they started being fans in 2012.

  7. The Seahawks paid for the rights to use “12th Man”.

    I guess you chose not to read the article.

  8. This sounds like a silly lawsuit to me, but as a Patriots fan I’m enjoying anything that brings misery to the Colts this year, so go ahead A&M, take their money and stick it to them!

  9. By the comments claiming about the Seahawks owning the 12th man or they should have to pay as well, it becomes clear that those posters read the headline, not the article. They are like low information voters.

  10. Yeah it’s not like the 7 Nation Army chant, where you can just claim your team invented it and not the 17 other teams that use it.

  11. A little further on the 12th Man use by the Seahawks.
    The agreement runs out in 2016.
    The Seahawks have already discontinued use of 12th man in favor of 12s.
    If Irsay actually pushs this he may win. Seattle didn’t push it because they had many Tx A&M grads in the organization at the time.

  12. Actually the Seahawks stopped paying for the right to use it, and have stopped using the “12th man” terminology. Now they call their fans the “12s.” Everything is the 12s.

    And if that seems like splitting hairs, so was Texas A&M’s patenting of the term after they didn’t even create it.

  13. eazeback says:
    money grab…they gonna sue the seahawks too?
    gojags says:
    Isn’t the “12th man” patented by the Seahawks.
    csneekz says:
    uuuhhh.,.. what about the seahawks?

    “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.”

    Reading is fundamental, comprehension is optional. Either that or only reading a headline leads to foolish posts. Hmmm…kind of like with framegate. That explains a lot actually

  14. Seahawks….Best fans in the league since 1976, using the term 12th man since then…sorry haters. Hawks could go 2-14 for the next ten years and we’ll still pack the clink and be the loudest there is….don’t let all the bandwagon homers fool ya

  15. Hold on…are the colts designating their fans or the piped in crowd noise as their 12th man? If it’s the latter, than the colts may indeed have found a loop hole…

  16. You can tell who didn’t even read the article as the last line clearly mentions the Seahawks

    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.

  17. Another reason the Patent and Trademark Office is a joke, along with most other self-important yet incompetent federal bureaucracies.

  18. .
    Things could get worse for the Colts in a hurry if pee wee teams start suing over the use of the term ” participation trophy “.

  19. Yes Seattle will no longer have agreement to use the 12th man term next year.

    I always thought they should appeal anyway and argue that their use of the saying came about from the common question of “what year this century did you become a SeAhawks fan”. Since the common answer is so often ” the twelfth……..man” I believe it may be a valid argument.

  20. Lots of people asking the same questions shows people didn’t read the article in its entirety. It says that Seahawks have to pay Texas A&M to use the term. So it shouldn’t be any confusion. One team is paying and the other hasn’t yet.

  21. The “12th man” is ridiculously sexist. Plenty of females go to sporting events.

    If Irsay were smart, he’d trademark “12 person” and he’d be set up for the future when A & M and Seattle are blasted for not encompassing their entire fanbases with their trademarks.

  22. Karma is really working overtime on the Colts and deservedly so. This sure is going to cut into Irsays discretionary spending. The roads may actually be a little safer in Indy.

  23. “Would be nice is some of you would read the article before making comments.”

    Lol reading comprehension in the US is so poor these days. A fine example of the job our edumacational system is doing…..

  24. Wow. They actually trademarked this term? That’s almost as bad as Apple being awarded a design patent for rounded corners on a smartphone.

  25. @
    kd75 says:
    Nov 13, 2015 1:05 PM

    Early bird gets the worm.

    Pay up Irsay.
    Second mouse gets the cheese.

  26. What the Hell is going on at our Nation’s Colleges and Universities?

    No wonder we are raising a generation of wimps that are offended by everything.

    Done as a society topic.

  27. I wonder if A&M is getting as much as Bosworth made selling “Ban the Boz” t-shirts to Donkey fans…..

  28. The Seahawks no longer pay for a “12th man” license. They’ve now trademarked calling the fans “The 12s” and switched all the marketing paraphernalia over.

    Not joking.

  29. I don’t know who looks cheesier – Texas A&M for trademarking this, or the Seahawks for actually paying them so they could use it.

  30. The Seahawks have stopped paying A&M. They’re not using “12th Man” any longer. Now it’s “The Twelves” or some variation.
    It’s kinda stupid, but I guess it tells A & M go go F themselves too so whatever.

  31. This is beyond frivolous and ridiculous; however, if we all get to copyright common phrases, I claim “Come on, man!”…as soon as I register it as my trademark, most of you will owe me money!

  32. i absolutely LOVE articles that allow us to see how many actually do not read the article just the headline and then proceed to give their 2 cents…. lol crazy but the reality everywhere !

  33. getyourownname says:

    So if the Colts win this lawsuit, do they raise a banner?

    no they will raise a ‘Lawsuit participants ‘ banner if they win


    ‘Lawsuit finalist ‘ if they lose.

  34. The article says that the Seahawks pay Texas A&M to be allowed to use it. That seems messed up somehow. It’s dumb that Texas A&M acts like they came up with “12th Man,” but it looks like it’s a genius way to make money. I need to think of commonly used phrases and terms to trademark too.

  35. So much hate for the Seahawks.. This is a cash grab by Texas A&M. Read the article.

    E. King Gill came out of the stands to fill in a SPOT ON THE BENCH because the team had so many injuries.

    Say what you want about Seahawks fans, but other teams practice dealing with crowd noise when they come to Seattle. It’s not the only place that happens (KC i’m lookin’ at you), but it’s among the loudest places to play. Seattle fans know when to be loud also. Joe Montana has said that he wished 49ers fans would “put down their wine glasses” cheer like Seahawks fans. Hate the Seahawks and their fans all you want. It doesn’t matter to the Seahawks fans.

    Sidenote: Seahawks retired the number 12 in 1984 in honor of the fans. Texas A&M got the trademark in 1990. Indy added “12th Man” to their Ring of Honor in 2007.

  36. Looking at Texas A&M football over the past, oh, 75 years or so, seems like they may need a 13th or perhaps 14th man if they are to ever win anything.

  37. money grab…they gonna sue the seahawks too?
    good reading skills. If you actually read the article you would know that the Seahawks are still paying to use the “12th man” term.

  38. sueb45 says:
    Nov 13, 2015 1:51 PM

    This is beyond frivolous and ridiculous; however, if we all get to copyright common phrases, I claim “Come on, man!”…as soon as I register it as my trademark, most of you will owe me money!


    excellent idea.

    I’ll trademark WTF, in both lower and upper case letters, along with the full spelling of it, and also both with and without a ? following all versions.

    I’m in for some BIG earnings.

  39. We live in a PC nation. Soon a few women will complain that it is sexist term and then all teams will be banned from using it altogether!

  40. The Colts 12th Man is whoever plays the recording of the loud Seahawks fans

    The NFL may have quashed the story like they avoided investigating the Colts fixing games to “Suck for Luck” but all the fans heard the recording skip on TV and all the fans know that they cheated to “win” the Luck Lottery


    Don’t be expecting a Super Bowl for a few decades Indy

  41. excellent idea.

    I’ll trademark WTF, in both lower and upper case letters, along with the full spelling of it, and also both with and without a ? following all versions.

    I’m in for some BIG earnings.
    I’m going to trademark the word “epic”! Not because I want the money, mostly because I am tired of it being used all the time!!! NOT EVERYTHING HAS TO BE “EPIC”!!!

  42. The Seahawks can actually no longer use the term ’12th Man’. Their contract expired and A&M didn’t renew.

    They’ve rebranded to “The 12”

    To those calling it a cash grab too… you’re beyond clueless. The deal with Seattle was for a whopping $5k a year. A&M has an endowment of over $10B. They don’t need the money. But they have to challenge misuse of the copyright every time, or they lose it.

  43. Already exploiting student athletes to make money, now exploiting student fans to make money. Big University is winning on all fronts.

  44. I just hate it when people don’t even read the article before they start commenting. It stated that Seattle pays for the name.

  45. Everyone should petition to get the U. of Minnesota to sue A&M to get the trademark revoked, since there is proof that Minnesota first came up with it.

  46. Are you seriously whining about trademark law? A&M owns the trademark. They get to pick and chose how to use it and enforce others use of it. It’s as simple as that.

  47. The whole idea of one team owning the rights to the use of the phrase “12th man,” is completely and utterly stupid.

    But the idea that neutral onlookers would actually *support* that team’s ownership of the rights is even worse than stupid.

    Come on, people. The “12th man” is a phrase that football fans have universally used to refer their ability to influence a game from the seats.

  48. Texas A&M……..weak.
    Can’t sell seats so they try to get money from something they stole from the 1900’s.
    Grow up “Aggies”.

  49. delcodonny says:
    Nov 13, 2015 2:54 PM

    No one seems to mention how the Seahawks get to use the 12th man. How do they get away with that?

    uh….the article mentioned it

  50. I love how many people feel the need to comment without actually reading the entire article.

    Curious to see what sort of feedback you’d get here if you spent a day posting only headlines – I imagine the drop off wouldn’t be as dramatic as logic suggests.

  51. 8to80texansblog says: “To those calling it a cash grab too… …they have to challenge misuse of the copyright every time, or they lose it.”

    So, then why hasn’t A&M challenged Indy before this? Indy’s been using the moniker for a very long time. They added it to the Ring of Honor in 2007, which means they’d been using it in other ways before that. Yet, Texas hasn’t sued Indy prior to this.

    Just because A&M doesn’t “need” the money, that does not mean it is not a cash grab. If they didn’t sue last year, then there’s no need to sue this year. But, with the Seahawks NOT renewing the agreement to pay for use of the “12th Man” moniker, it looks like Texas A&M wants to get another NFL team on the hook.

  52. I suppose anyone could patent an everyday phrase like “just sayin” or “WTF” but it does you no good until someone starts making money from it.
    12th man used to be a cute cult term but now its a corporatised cliche and I hate it. Just like most things (songs, hamburgers, just to name a couple) that are popular the money grabbers flog ’em to death

  53. A&M should charge $1B every time a tool from Seattle sports a “12” Jersey…

    Although they’d be losing money fast based on hard that wagon is falling off.

  54. Very few commenters read the article before commenting. Seattle pays A&M for use of the 12th Man.

    I always thought the Colts 12th man was the guy who turned up the volume of the recorded crowd noise.

  55. Thank you for pointing out that A&M didn’t originate the term. First known publication, as you mention, was in Volume 7 of the Sept. 1900 edition of Minnesota Magazine.

    It then appeared in the Nov. 1912 (Volume 10) edition of The Iowa Alumnus.

    The Aggies didn’t begin using it until 1922.

    The Seahawks retired #12 in 1984.

    Texas A&M trademarked “12th Man” in 1990 and began suing anyone and everyone that dared to use their stolen phrase. Shrewd? You bet. Ethical? You be the judge of that.

  56. So, is Texas A&M (a school that is certainly not hurting financially) going to sue Seattle?
    As it says in the opening of this article, there are other teams (not just Indy) that use the phrase, “The 12th Man”…..as none of them are being sued, I can only guess that the powers that be are NOT Colts fans.
    Oh CRAP, I used the phrase “The 12th Man” w/o permission from Texas A&M….am I going to be sued too?

  57. from goggle….

    Following an initial lump sum payment of $100,000 in 2006, Texas A&M University is receiving $5,000 per year from the Seattle Seahawks for their use of the “12th Man” mark.Jan 19, 2004

  58. Didn’t read the article? Hell, I didn’t even read the whole title of the article. Therefore, I’m going to jump into this debate about why Texas A& W rootbeer is sewing 12 banners for the Colts.

    I, for one, am disgusted.

  59. Not sure whats worse;
    people not reading the article and then making inane comments or queries about the situation……or……….
    people actually responding to and/or correcting the aforementioned people who didn’t read the article….

    Such a waste of keystrokes, allaround

  60. I’m not new to life, but I find it odd you can patent a phrase. I totally understand patenting the light bulb, less so patenting the phrase ” hot dog in a hallway”.

  61. Everything the Colts do is Hokey. Raise participation banners and use the most overused moniker to describe a football teams fans. Way to be original.

  62. In other news, the Mort Report says that Mark Gastineau and JJ Watt have filed suit against the TV show Brooklyn 99 for “improper use” of their jersey number.

    Hollywood then filed a counter-suit against Big Ben, Mike Vick, and John Elway claiming that they had misappropriated the title of the movie called “The Magnificent Seven”.

    Rumors of a similar suit against Griese, Bradshaw, et al by “the Dirty Dozen” and Montana et al by the movie “Sixteen Candles” are as yet unsubstantiated.

  63. “…Everything the Colts do is Hokey…”

    Uh, Mr. Irsay, there’s someone from Virginia Tech on line 1.

  64. The lack of basic understanding of trademark law exhibited in these comments is boggling. It’s trademark law, NOT patent law, which is completely different. Words cannot be patented. A word or phrase or design can be trademarked only if it meets certain statutory criteria. The USPTO does not make trademark law, it only fulfills its required duty in registering marks that meet the statutory requirements. If someone objects to a registration based on their own prior usage or other basis allowed under law, they have ample opportunity to contest it.

    No wonder the US ranks so low in world education standards. But that could explain why a clown like Trump is so popular.

  65. Apparently no one reads the whole story anymore. The seahawks pay royalties to A&M for the rights to the name as it says in the last paragraph. However Indy is trying to get away free. Nice try irsay. Fire Grigson and pay for the term as 12th man. Indy isn’t a 12th man anyway, more like an 11 1/3 man.

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