Thursday, January 28, 2010

Who Dat Trademark?

Dear Rich: Recently several small shops here in New Orleans, Louisiana have received cease and desist letters from the NFL regarding either the Fleur de Lis symbol or the Who Dat slogan and the Saints. This has been put on merchandise for years by local merchants and never been challenged before. Because we win now all of a sudden people are breaking the law? Do you know anything about this? Is it copyright infringement or trademark issue and which is it the Gold and Black Fleur de Lis or the words Who Dat? Can you explain this to me? I think with all that this city has gone through the NFL should be ashamed. The Dear Rich Staff is not sure whether NFL Enterprises LLC can feel shame. They're a limited liability corporation, not a person. Oh. wait a second, the Supreme Court reported this week that corporations are people, so maybe we're wrong. 
Anyway, as for your question ... This is a trademark issue and apparently it has been a hot topic in NOLA for the past few weeks. As everybody seems to acknowledge:  (1) the NFL has not registered the 'Who Dat,' mark (although several other companies and individuals are trying for registration or claim to own rights) and (2) the NFL/New Orleans Saints owns two fleur de lis design registrations (No. 3135839 and No. 3210572 -- shown above). Our research indicates that the C&D letters that are going out are for efforts that combine the two elements -  the phrase and fleur de lis. The basis for this claim would be that consumers are confused into believing that this merchandise is associated with the NFL. Certainly, the NFL would be hard pressed to pursue vendors selling only "Who Dat" merchandise. So far we haven't found any lawsuits and we assume some PR-savvy NOLA trademark attorneys will jump on the issue (as so many others have) should it head to court. In any case, for now it appears as if it's a Mexican standoff.
Must See Dept. As readers know the staff here doesn't care about football but we'll make an exception for the best football movie since Burt Reynolds scored in The Longest Yard.