Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Using NFL Team Names on Caps

Ladies military style NFL cap
Dear Rich: I am creating some caps and I am using my own letters and creating words like Cowboys, Eagles, Texans, and Aggies without their logos or letters is this legal?  It may seem unfair that certain words are off-limits for use on headgear (caps, hats, etc.) because the National Football League or a college has registered them as trademarks in Class 025, but that's the case with the words you've chosen. The trademark owner's goal is to control the unauthorized distribution of merchandise -- in other words, to stop people from doing exactly what you're planning. Their rationale is that they're the ones who popularized these terms, so why should others be able to trade off those rights? According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the NFL owns trademarks for Eagles (Reg.No. 3413981), Texans (Reg. No. 3268449), and we assume for Cowboys (though we didn't sort through the hundreds of "cowboys" marks in Class 25 to verify). There are various Aggies registrations (apparently to distinguish the Texas Aggies from the California Aggies). So we leave you with our usual two-part caveat ... (1) Yes, your merchandise is likely to be considered infringing (changing the lettering style won't matter) and (2) if you proceed anyway, you may bypass any hassles if the trademark owners don't learn of your use or care enough to send you a cease and desist letter.