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The 12th Man Does Not Belong To The Hawks

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Ken's Commentary: The 12th Man Does Not Belong To The Hawks


January 31, 2006


By Ken Schram ken_schram.jpg


SEATTLE - I know this is going to sound sacrilegious. Just hear me out. The 12th man does NOT belong to the Seattle Seahawks. Like or not, Texas A&M owns the rights to that slogan. Now before you start looking for a rope to string me up with, let's figure out what that means. It means if the Seahawks want to continue selling 12th man hats and 12th man jerseys; 12th man stickers, plaques and signs, well, Paul Allen's just gonna have to come to some sort of arrangement with Texas A&M. That arrangement likely means sharing some of the money the Seahawks are making off all their 12th man marketing efforts. That's what this is really about: Money. Texas A&M wants its fair financial taste of the 12th man brand that the school created back in 1922. Paul Allen should grasp that. Hell, if someone started a business called "Vulcan" - that's the name of Allen's company - do you think Allen would just sit back and do nothing? This isn't about you and me giving up the 12th man concept, or the 12th man hoopla. It's about a professional sports team giving up the idea of getting something for nothing. So, if Paul Allen really appreciates the 12th man as much as he said he does, well, then Paul Allen can just put his money where his mouth is.

Want to share your thoughts with Ken Schram? You can e-mail him at

It's all about the money and the Seahawks are making almost nothing on it. Thoes stupid Tex... um... I mean...


So, what do you think?

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Lets not gloss over that fact that Paul Allen named his company "Vulcan". On that basis alone, all Trek fans must root for the Seahawks this week....... :laugh:

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Many Seattle fans can't understand how Texas A-and-M can claim rights to a phrase as common to football as pigskin and shoulder pads?

Just Whose '12th Man' Is It?


February 1, 2006


By KOMO Staff & News Services trademark_12th_012706.jpg


SEATTLE - As if the Terrible Towel-twirling faithful of the Pittsburgh Steelers weren't enough, now Seattle Seahawks fans have to ward off another set of rabid football partisans, the Aggies of Texas A&M.


Ever since the university launched a trademark dispute this week over who is allowed to refer to their fans as the "12th Man," the abuse has been flowing in for David Israel, president of the Seahawks official fan club.


Aggie alumni have sent Israel "rude e-mails" demanding he remove the free "12th Man" computer wallpaper from the fan club's Web site, the same way the school wants to halt Seattle from using the "12th Man" trademarked phrase.


Israel and many other Seattle fans can't understand how Texas A&M can claim rights to a phrase as common to football as pigskin and shoulder pads.


"Who the hell do they think they are?" R.C. Merz said while making sandwiches at a lunch counter in Pike Place Market. "They didn't invent football."


Seattle fan Andrew Simmons thought the Aggies' motives may have been envy.


"It's too bad they haven't had a winning season in a while, but don't take it out on us," he said. (His facts are slightly off. A&M was 5-6 last year, but 7-5 in 2004.)


Although they don't claim rights to the actual number "12," the Aggies do hold federal trademark rights to the phrase "12th Man," and now Seattle must tackle the issue when a judge takes up the matter Thursday afternoon in court in Brazos County, Texas.


On Monday, a restraining order was issued calling on Seattle to halt any usage of "12th Man," or "12th Mania." A&M's chief marketing officer Steve Moore said he didn't want to rain on Seattle's parade, he just wants to protect the university's trademarks.


Seahawks officials have declined to comment on the matter.


The origins of the term aren't exactly clear, but the traditions in Seattle and at the Aggies' campus in College Station, Texas, date back decades.


In 1984, the Seahawks retired the number 12 to honor the fans who made the old Kingdome one of the noisiest stadiums in football. Today it hangs alongside Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent's No. 80, the only other number off limits for current players. During the Seahawks' run through the playoffs, a huge flag with the fans' No. 12 has flown from the top of the Space Needle.


The Aggies trace their 12th Man tradition to 1922, 11 years before the first NFL championship game and 44 years before the first Super Bowl. The injury-depleted Aggies pulled E. King Gill, a student, from the stands and suited him up to play. Gill never did take to the field, but the legend spurred a campus-wide commitment to support the team. The words "Home of 12th Man" adorn the stadium.


Jim Carlson, A&M's student body president, said the entire school is considered the 12th Man, and the entire student section stands up throughout the entire game.


"It's a tradition that we're really proud of," said Carlson, although he acknowldged all that standing makes his feet hurt.


Given the 12th Man trademark dispute, Carlson said he's probably going to root for the Steelers.


The number 12 was on the minds of Seahawks fans at the team store and a fan shop across the street: number 12 flags, T-shirts and jerseys were going like free pizza in a college dorm. One woman dropped $1,386.28 on 17 No. 12 jerseys. But fans couldn't understand the Texas A&M blitz.


"How do you patent the number 12?" Kevin King, of Kirkland, wondered.


Seattle may be the underdogs when they take on the Steelers Sunday, but trademark experts and Seattle's fans think they can stick it to Texas A&M in court.


University of Washington intellectual property professor Dan Laster said companies must vigorously protect and enforce trademarks and he thinks the Aggies may have fumbled that ball.


"There definitely are questions about whether Texas A&M may have waited too long to assert any trademark right," he said.


Laster said there are other potential problems with Texas' case. For example, trademark law doesn't apply to descriptive uses of a phrase.


"Even if Texas A&M has a valid trademark for "12th Man," they could not preclude anyone from saying they love the 12th Man," Laster said.


But the restraining order issued in Texas does just that. Under the order, the Seahawks could not even say, "Thank you 12th Man."


Bill Ferron, a Seattle-based trademark attorney, said he could understand how Texas A&M wouldn't want Seattle's best season to eclipse what may be rightfully theirs.


"Their concern is that if we go to the Super Bowl and promote the 12th Man in conjunction with the Seahawks, it may eclipse their use of the 12th Man phrase in the minds of consumers," he said.


But Seahawks fans weren't keen about a Texas judge allowing the Aggies to throw a wet towel, terrible or not, on Seattle's pre-game party.


"It just seems like their brains are a little bit smaller," Israel said.


But Merz wasn't all that worried. He takes confidence from the vast wealth of Seahawks owner and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.


"He can hire a good lawyer," Merz said.

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