One of the banes of commercial existence has been that Internet domain names can be registered by anyone, in a flash. Yes, there is indeed a domain name registered for “deflategate.com,” owned by someone in Fort Lauderdale. It did not exist before this controversy blew up; the domain name registration was only created on Monday (January 19, 2015). Just as has been the case for 20 years now, rights in Internet domain names are an absolute land rush: first one to get there, wins.
At least as of this moment, no one has filed a trademark application in the United States Patent and Trademark Office for “Deflate-gate.” Perhaps as most people know, actual trademark rights don’t work that way. The first one to use the mark in commerce wins. And, thus, an attempted land-grab for trademark rights is much, much more difficult to obtain. In fact, there are shockingly few “deflate” trademarks which exist at all, but that is a whole other topic. A trademark application is also more expensive than a domain name. This may be a slight barrier to entry for many, although, at not much more than $200 (the government just lowered trademark application fees), it’s not that much of an issue to someone who really thinks they can find a way to make money either by selling products themselves or selling rights to the name to someone else.
Seahawk’s star Richard Sherman (photo credit: USA TODAY Sports)
In this Super Bowl of trademarks, reports tell us that Seattle is trying to touch down with at least claims to two registrations. One is for “Boom,” which they say is related to the team’s defensive prowess. There is no strict legal reason why professional football teams can’t adopt the trademark “boom” associated in some way with their team. Whether that is what happened here, I do not know. And by the way, there are over a thousand past users or applicants in the Trademark Office alone (not even counting the no doubt tens of thousands of unregistered uses over the years) for the word “Boom,” so that could blow up their hopes.
The Seahawks are also trying to register “12” — as in Seattle’s much-publicized in-stadium fan-base, the “12th man” of the team. The crowd is often designated as the extra man on the field for its support, whether it’s the 10th man in baseball or the 6th man in basketball or the 12th man in football. I may be missing something, but otherwise it’s going to take some serious crowd control for Seattle to register this trademark. (By the way, Tom Brady’s jersey is number 12.)
For a number of years, teams and coaches have been enamored with the idea of registering slogans. John Calipari, when he was the head basketball coach for the powerful University of Massachusetts Minutemen, registered “Refuse To Lose” for T-shirts in 1997. (Of course, he’s now the head coach at the University of Kentucky.) And probably not surprisingly, he has the clever CoachCal.com domain name sewn up, too.
The Patriots have their own collection of trademark registrations, including “The Patriot Way,” a registered trademark which no doubt has taken on new meaning for much of the Patriot-hating universe these days. I first saw the Patriots play in Fenway Park in the 1960s, so I’m more in the non-trademarked: “In Tom And Bill We Trust, No Matter What” camp. The Pats also own the very assertive marks “Do Your Job” and “Next Game Up.” …Just in case you thought the Pats were going soft.
This article originally appeared on Forbes