When some sports writers last year began to refer to the possible matchup between John Harbaugh and Jim Harbaugh as the “Harbowl,” Roy Fox of Pendleton, Indiana had an idea. Fox was a regular football fan that thought if he sold hats and t-shirts with “Harbowl” or “Harbaughbowl” on them he would be able to make some extra cash. With this idea in mind, he decided to trademark both of these names.
Now that the matchup is actually happening, you would think that Fox was printing hats and t-shirts like crazy and was getting ready to sell them. Unfortunately for him, this is not the case. NFL Lawyers threatened him with costly legal battles in an effort to get him to drop his copyright, and it worked.
According to the Washington Examiner:
Mr. Fox, figuring last year that the Harbowl might happen some day, signed up with the online legal services business Legal Zoom, and went through the process of applying for a trademark on both Harbowl and Harbaughbowl.
The USPTO processed Fox’s trademark application in February. In July, the PTO published the trademark request, as is standard, in order to see if anyone opposed it.
Resistance came from the NFL, famous for its zealous protection of its trademarks and its content.
Fox said that in August the NFL got the PTO to extend the time allowed for filing an objection and that the NFL told him that they were worried that his trademarks would confuse people and make them think that his apparel was endorsed by the NFL and official gear.
The NFL’s lawyers pushed Fox to abandon his trademark, but he says that he truly didn’t want to abandon it. The NFL wrote to him and said:
“If you are still interested in resolving this matter amicably and abandoning your trademark application, please contact me as soon as possible,” NFL Assistant Counsel Delores DiBella wrote to Mr. Fox in October. She warned that otherwise, the NFL “will be forced to file an opposition proceeding and to seek the recoupment of our costs from you.”
“I was threatened to be taken to court,” Fox told me, “and I just assumed I would lose, and I couldn’t afford the court costs.”
Fox said that he didn’t know his legal rights and that he didn’t want to fight a costly legal battle with the NFL that he was afraid he would lose. So he told them that he would abandon the trademarks in exchange for Colts tickets, but the NFL told him no. He did say that the NFL was helpful in helping him abandon his trademarks, and he abandoned them in October.
All this proves is that the NFL is a bully and was clearly frustrated that they didn’t think of trademarking it first. It’s a shame that they were willing to ruin this guy’s life over a trademark, all because he thought of it before them. The least they could have done was given him some Colts season tickets for him to enjoy.