HOUSTON (CN) – Texas A&M University claims in court the Indianapolis Colts’ “12th Man” ad campaign violates its trademark, the first punch in a feud that’s simmered since 2006.
For Texas A&M University football the 12th Man is a sacred institution. Legend has it that in 1922 the Aggies football coach called student E. King Gill down from the stands during a hard-fought game and had him gear up.
Eleven players from each team are allowed on the field during American football games.
“When the game ended, E. King Gill was the only man left standing on the sidelines for the Aggies. Gill later said, ‘I wish I could say that I went in and ran for the winning touchdown, but I did not. I simply stood by in case my team needed me,'” according to the school’s website.
Texas A&M students honor that tradition by standing throughout home football games at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas.
The university cites the Gill story in its lawsuit, claiming it adopted the 12th Man mark in 1922 to glorify Gill’s “spirit of readiness to serve Texas A&M’s football team in time of need.”
Texas A&M sued Indianapolis Colts Inc. on Nov. 12 in Federal Court.
The Aggies say they sent the Colts a cease-and-desist notice in 2006 after the NFL team used the 12th man mark inside its stadium.
The Colts assured Texas A&M they wouldn’t use the mark “beyond the Indianapolis stadium,” but kept on using it how they pleased, prompting more cease-and-desist letters from Texas A&M in 2008 and 2012.
The infringement became too brazen for Texas A&M in July when the Colts sent an email advertising tickets to someone, the lawsuit doesn’t say who, in College Station. The ad states “Join the 12th Man” in large blue letters next to the team’s horseshoe logo.
This isn’t the first time Texas A&M has gone to court to defend the mark. The school sued the Seattle Seahawks in 2006 for using the mark without permission, resulting in a settlement under which the Seahawks pay $5,000 per year in licensing fees for the slogan.
Texas A&M seeks an injunction ordering the Colts to stop using the mark and to destroy all related marketing materials and products.
It sued for trademark infringement and unfair competition under federal and Texas law.
Steven Fleckman with Fleckman McGlynn in Houston represents the university.
Colts spokesman Avis Roper did not respond to a phone message seeking comment.
He told ESPN the following on Nov. 12: “We’re aware of the media reports of the Texas A&M lawsuit but we’ve not yet had an opportunity to review the actual complaint. We’ll make a statement after we’ve actually been served and had an opportunity to evaluate the allegations.”
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