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Texas A&M suing Colts over use of "12th Man"

Just when you thought the Colts' 2015 season couldn't get any crazier: Texas A&M is suing the Indianapolis Colts over the use of the "12th Man," which is trademarked by A&M.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As if the Indianapolis Colts' 2015 season wasn't crazy enough, now they're being sued by a college in order to protect a trademark.  As first reported by ESPN business analyst Darren Rovell, Texas A&M is suing the Colts over use of the "12th Man," which is trademarked by A&M.

"Texas A&M University is the Home of the 12th Man which has brought our fan base national renown," Texas A&M University President Michael K. Young said in a statement released by the school.  "We would prefer not to file lawsuits to protect our trademarks.  However, when our intellectual property, especially the 12th Man mark which is so important to our students and former students, is used without our permission after repeated attempts to engage on the matter, we are left with no choice."

A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp echoed Young's sentiments.  "We bear no ill will toward the Indianapolis Colts," Sharp said.  "We simply want them to respect our trademark rights.  Our actions are consistent with our previous trademark enforcement efforts in this regard."

According to Rovell, A&M said that "repeated attempts to stop the Colts from using its registered trademarks were unsuccessful."  According to the report, A&M first sent a cease and desist letter to the Colts in 2006, but it was ignored.  Then in 2008, when the Colts put the 12th Man in the Ring of Honor, A&M again warned the Colts - but again, the Colts did nothing.  Then this year, the Colts used the "12th Man" in a promotional advertisement, and Texas A&M also found out that the Colts have been selling "12th Man" gear and presenting fans with "12th Man" awards.  That led to this lawsuit, according to Rovell's report.

People quick to point out the Seattle Seahawks, who are most prominent in their use of the "12s," have to realize that the Seahawks actually pay A&M to use it.  Back in 2006, Texas A&M sued the Seahawks over the use of the "12th Man," and the result was that both teams would continue to use the designation but that Seattle would pay an undisclosed licensing fee in order to do so.  The two sides renewed the deal in 2011, but their current deal is expiring in 2016.   Noticeably, the Seahawks have begun moving away from the "12th Man" designation and instead to the "12s," which is likely in order to not have to pay Texas A&M anymore to use the saying.  Rovell notes that the Buffalo Bills also have a deal with A&M for the use of the "12th Man," but for very limited use inside the stadium.

Basically, this just sounds like Texas A&M trying to protect it's trademarks out of jealousy (because only they have a 12th Man, of course), but they do indeed have a case.  They have trademarked the use of it, and when the Seahawks were sued over their use of it they were forced to pay Texas A&M in order to use it.  That's likely what the Colts will have to do as well, unless they opt to go away from it entirely.  This seems rather silly and if it were me I'd let my 12th Man do the talking instead of a lawsuit, but hey, if you have the trademark, you have a right to enforce it too.  And if the Colts have been warned about this repeatedly and not done anything about it, as A&M says, then they have no one to blame but themselves.  Overall, this is just another crazy turn in an already crazy Colts season.