by Jason Butt
July 04, 02014
Texas A&M seems ready to protect its 12th Man trademark at all costs — even if that means going after a die-hard double amputee Bills fan without the funds to fight litigation, when all he and his three friends want to do is to ensure that the Bills stay in Buffalo.
The Aggies athletic department recently filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Charles Sonntag, who co-founded the website 12thManThunder.com, according to Deadspin. The site was set up as a petition to help keep the Bills from leaving Buffalo whenever a new owner takes over. But using the term 12th Man, which football teams at every level have done for years, is a definite no-no, no matter the instance apparently. It would seem Texas A&M is dead set on being the only 12th Man in the country (which is ridiculous), and doesn't want the rest of the nation to be fooled by other 12th Man imposters (again, ridiculous). Texas A&M registerred the 12th Man trademark in 1990 and have staunchly defended it since.
In fact, the Seattle Seahawks were sued by Texas A&M in 2006, to which the Seahawks agreed to pay $100,000 and an annual licensing fee of $5,000. It's crazy to think that it worked, considering no one in their right mind would ever confuse the Seahawks 12th Man with Texas A&M's, let alone the not-so-uniqueness of the term.
Sonntag doesn't have those kind of deep pockets needed to fight this matter. He lives off of a social security check, has one arm and one leg, and is a cancer survivor. But according to the Deadspin story, Texas A&M believes Sonntag was too slow to respond and has issues with the site's founders use of the name on social media. Texas A&M wants the domain handed over to them, even though the website has already been changed to BillsFanThunder.com.
Clearly Sonntag created the website without the intention of ripping off Texas A&M (newsflash: not many people outside of College Station, Texas that didn't go to that particular university care about Texas A&M). Sonntag is a Bills fan and likely has no connection to the school. But hey, some people act like jerks for no other reason than acting like jerks. Texas A&M, in this instance, has decided to act as one big, fat collective jerk.
Even if Texas A&M is in the right for wanting to protect its trademark (and that's extremely debatable because no logical person would confuse a Bills' 12th Man Thunder site with Texas A&M), there's a decent way of going about this.
Texas A&M has failed miserably on that end. And sadly, the school probably doesn't care.
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