Cognate's Trademark Blog

I Believe That We Will Win’ the Legal Battle

About a week ago we tweeted that San Diego State University is attempting to register trademark rights in the phrase “I believe that we will win.” This phrase gained national fame when it was adopted in support of the US Men’s National Soccer Team’s on their run to the round of sixteen in the World Cup.

Now, with the mark being published for opposition yesterday, at least one party plans on fighting the claim. The Utah State University Aggies claim they started using the chant in 2006, and filed for trademark protection for the phrase on February 21 of this year – but only at the state level. San Diego State filed their federal trademark application back in October 2011. So while this isn’t a reactionary move by SDSU to exploit the phrase’s newfound popularity, they’d certainly appear to be in a superior position to capitalize on it.

One of the main issues at hand seems to be that the SDSU Aztecs didn’t come up with the chant. According to legend, the chant was started by a Naval Academy Prep School student named Jay Rodriguez in 1998, and was later carried on at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. But creating the chant is different from claiming it as a trademark for clothing.

Utah State hopes others who have used the chant will join their opposition to the application. If SDSU were granted exclusive nationwide rights in connection to the slogan, they would be able to prevent anyone else from selling apparel with the slogan on it.

In a case like this, Utah State’s chances may depend on when they started selling apparel with the phrase on it (i.e. the mark’s date of first use in commerce), and if/when SDSU started using it as a trademark. Regardless of the outcome of SDSU’s efforts to obtain federal registration, it is important to remember that it is only for clothing. The Aggies should still be allowed to use the mark in Utah. We’ll keep on eye on this one as the opposition process proceeds.

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