Texas A&M University has won another battle over its “12th Man” trademark against a soap company based in Washington State. The Washington Soap Company applied for a trademark for “12th Man Hands” for the company’s “handmade loofah soap bar.” It is a bar of soap, with the logo bearing the soap company’s pair of hands gripping the soap like a football.
The “12th Man” is a reference to Texas A&M’s fan base, a long-standing tradition dating back to the 1930s when the A&M football team picked a fan out of the stadium’s crowd to be on the sidelines because the team did not have enough substitutes. Texas A&M makes about $40,000,000 annually off the “12th Man” trademark and has forced two NFL franchises, the Buffalo Bills and the Seattle Seahawks, to pay them a handsome licensee fee for using the “12th Man” to refer to their own respective fan base.
Challenging the soap company’s registration for a trademark, Texas A&M brought the case before the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. Texas A&M made a direct frontal attack against the Washington soap company claiming that the soap trademark created a “likelihood of confusion” under the Federal Trademark Act, one of the key du Pont factors used in assessing whether a trademark infringement has occurred. The panel agreed that the public could be confused over the independence of the soap company’s product from Texas A&M.
Regardless of one’s opinion about whether a soap company and a football slogan would be confused by layman, Texas A&M has scored again with its legal team who has manufactured quite a record with the “12th Man” trademark and will likely continue to rack up more victories in the foreseeable future.