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Same Old NFL: League Abuses Trademark to Shut Down New York Jets Parody Store


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I run a store selling merch for frustrated Jets fans (read: all Jets fans) that the NFL got taken down through a baseless trademark infringement claim. Thankfully, I have the support of the amazing El

I wouldn't exactly call it abuse. You're an IP Pirate.  And no, it isn't as cool as the word pirate might imply. Also, if you think folks won't realize this is just an ad thread for your kno

Lock, dump, ban, kill.    Good luck with your store!

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3 minutes ago, JTJet said:

I literally just got done dealing with my own trademark attorneys to protect my buisness from exactly what you are doing to the Jets. If the tables were turned, your head would explode. 

Fair enough. I suppose we'll see how it turns out. I consulted with a number of trademark attorneys at non-profit organizations before choosing to retain the EFF to represent me pro bono and they all felt this was a clear non-infringement. 

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2 minutes ago, BallinPB said:

Who are the people who buy these shirts?

I can't give you my customer list, but they're probably the same kinds of people who bought thousands of The 7 Line's "Sell The Team" Mets shirts years ago before they partnered with the team. Or the kinda people who chant "Sell The Team" at MSG during a Knicks game. Or the thousands of Redskins fans who chanted "sell the team" at a game.

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4 minutes ago, Jetsfan80 said:

Being unlikable and pissing off the very people you're trying to appeal to isn't the best way to help your cause.  

Fair, but I don't understand hating on someone for trying to make money. I'm not here trying to sell you guys anything. I'm here trying to fight trademark bullying by the NFL. 

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3 minutes ago, sameoldjetsstore said:

Fair enough. I suppose we'll see how it turns out. I consulted with a number of trademark attorneys at non-profit organizations before choosing to retain the EFF to represent me pro bono and they all felt this was a clear non-infringement. 

It would be awesome if your buisness succeeds. I stand behind any small buisness owner. With that being said, the NFL is a buisness as well, subject to the same rights and laws as yourself. 

Down the road, someone is going to riff on your idea, take money from your pocket, and you wont be at all happy about it. 

Just some advice from one buisness owner to another, rethink your buisness strategy to navigate everything lawfully in a way that doesnt even wade into the dangerous waters you are in right now. Worry less about trying to squeak by pretty clear laws. 

Cheers though my friend, truly an uphill battle. 

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17 minutes ago, Jetsfan80 said:

So this thread backfired on the OP.  lol.  

Full disclosure.  The thread starter reached out to me sometime during the season. He asked if we could promote this.  We had a brief exchange, he was very nice, and I told him we had to pass. We haven't done the t-shirt \ merchandise thing here and this is definitely not anything we would want the site associated with.

My concerns over what I thought would happen are exactly what happened. He explained that his attorney disagreed. I am no legal expert but this is exactly what I thought would happen.

He reached out to me again today asking if we would share this story. I didn't feel it was worthy of a blog post, this isn't our fight. I explained that to him and I said he could start this thread in the forums if he wanted to.

I was curious what others would think as well. Everyone seems to be on the same page. For me it is when you are making money on something, that is a game changer.

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Just now, sameoldjetsstore said:

Fair, but I don't understand hating on someone for trying to make money. I'm not here trying to sell you guys anything. I'm here trying to fight trademark bullying by the NFL. 

I said good luck in my original post and you neg rep me.  You are repping your own posts here for what?  I will never hate on a person for trying to make some money but you are making it hard.  

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Just to clear up any confusion about trademark infringement and why my store is 100% not violating it...

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The league’s only explanation for its complaint was an obvious copy-and-paste job that parrots a legal test for trademark infringement, claiming consumers are likely to believe the gear was put out or approved by the NFL.

Seriously? The idea that consumers would think the NFL is selling official merchandise that mocks the Jets (using a phrase the team’s owner has called “disrespectful”), or says “SELL THE TEAM,” is ridiculous. On top of that, Berger’s parodies of the Jets’ logo and merchandise are protected by the First Amendment and trademark’s nominative fair use doctrine, which protects your right to use someone else’s trademark to refer to the trademark owner or its products. (Nominative fair use, by the way, is also why you can call the Super Bowl “the Super Bowl.”)

The law has nothing to do with whether or not my logo is clearly the Jets logo with a couple words changed. Whether or not something infringes on a trademark solely depends on whether or not consumers are likely to believe the trademark holder approved or is selling the gear, which clearly isn't the case here. On top of that... there's additional protection through 1A and fair use that apply here. 

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6 minutes ago, sameoldjetsstore said:

Fair, but I don't understand hating on someone for trying to make money. I'm not here trying to sell you guys anything. I'm here trying to fight trademark bullying by the NFL. 

Make money any (legal) way you want, even if its dumb and not sustainable.

I never accused you of trying to sell us anything.  I don't think you are.  Not directly anyways.

If you're trying to fight this, and want our support, stop neg-repping posts and making yourself an enemy.  

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Just now, Jetsfan80 said:

If you're trying to fight this, and want our support, stop neg-repping posts and making yourself an enemy.  

When every commenter is neg-repping all of my posts and tanking my rep when I just joined the site today and am simply answering questions/stating my case... it's hard not to respond in kind. But I hear you and will stop. 

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1 minute ago, sameoldjetsstore said:

When every commenter is neg-repping all of my posts and tanking my rep when I just joined the site today and am simply answering questions/stating my case... it's hard not to respond in kind. But I hear you and will stop. 

I didn't neg rep you.  Only 6 did out of the numerous people that posted in it.  

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Just now, sameoldjetsstore said:

I hear you. My bad. 

 

Just now, sameoldjetsstore said:

When every commenter is neg-repping all of my posts and tanking my rep when I just joined the site today and am simply answering questions/stating my case... it's hard not to respond in kind. But I hear you and will stop. 

You seem like a good person so I wish you well in this.  I don't know how the whole trademark thing works.  I work in construction so I won't pretend I know anything about it either.  

If your attorney believes you have a leg to stand on then fight for what you believe in.  

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1 minute ago, Sperm Edwards said:

The reason there is such a law is it's stealing. It's their logo. They own it. You are trying to use it on your merchandise to sell and make a profit, and you did so without the team's consent/permission. That's stealing. That you slightly altered it is a silly argument, since it's obviously only identifiable because you stole their trademarked design in the first place.

I 110% understand where you're coming from here, but that's not how trademark law actually works. I hate to keep posting the same quote, but it's only a trademark infringement if "consumers are likely to mistakenly believe the gear was put out or approved by the NFL". Perhaps you feel that's the case here, but I'd argue that consumers aren't highly unlikely to mistakenly believe that "Sell The Team" and "Same Old Jets" gear is being sold by or is approved by the NFL. Whether or not I took their logo and altered it is immaterial to a trademark infringement claim... you're allowed to do that as long as you're not violating the law in the way I just described. Further, because the phrase "Same Old Jets" is a criticism of the team, parody law applies under the fair use doctrine. 

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7 minutes ago, Sperm Edwards said:

It's not even like the target audience to buy your merchandise is different than theirs. Only a Jets fan would wear this, as you pretty much acknowledge in this thread. You are clearly trying to sell Jets-branded merchandise to Jets fans, and are stealing their trademarked logo to do so. That you altered the logo slightly is immaterial. 

You have no chance, nor should you. 

If you were a professional comedian with a show or video podcast, and just created this as a fake logo to put on the screen for 30 seconds during your bit, that would be parody. Even then - if the team so desired - they still might be able to get a TRO to get you to stop rebroadcasting it on your website (plus other sites, too, like YouTube) if the team/owner claims it's damaging the brand and/or reputation (our own follow-up jokes to that claim notwithstanding). 

What's more, this is a brand new logo the team (pathetically) invested heavily into, was very excited about, and only unveiled less than 1 year ago.

The reason there is such a law is it's stealing. It's their logo. They own it. You are trying to use it on your merchandise to sell and make a profit, and you did so without the team's consent/permission. That's stealing. That you slightly altered it is a silly argument, since it's obviously only identifiable because you stole their trademarked design in the first place.

If you made you shirt without using the Jets logo and swoosh mark, and in particular if you further used an open source bolt-italic font rather than the one identified with (and I think owned by) the team, then you could do this. But of course no fans would be interested in buying that from you nor wearing it even if given to them for free...which is the very point.

Only thing I could see is if you only copied the font alone (or used a similar but not identical font), but without the Jets logo or that stupid door wedge version of a Nike swoosh. Like the Just End The Season and similar shirts I've seen. That you'd likely get away with, just like the Idzik/Woody billboard. But if that billboard or shirt went up including a blatant ripoff of their logo with swoosh? No. 

I like that the smartest guy here goes by the name Sperm.

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