Have you ever wondered who owns the Red Wolves trademark?
The Red Wolves seem to be a popular mascot recently, and could make you wonder "Who owns the Red Wolves trademark?" The short answer is Arkansas State University owns the registered trademark for the Red Wolves trademark.
In the world of professional sports, teams often embody more than just athletic prowess and fierce competition. They — and by extension their names — become symbols of identity, unity, and pride for their fans and communities. As such, all of these are duly registered as trademarks since they are widely used for business, particularly merchandise items.
However, sometimes these trademark symbols can be tarnished by controversy, leading to the need for change. It isn’t always true that all press is good press, after all. This was a notable challenge for Washington's NFL team and the team president Jason Wright.
Formerly known as the Washington Redskins, the team held a storied legacy in the National Football League (NFL). Over the years, though, the old name drew more and more flak, criticism, and concerns due to their Redskins name being a racial slur against Native Americans with Native American imagery. There was immense pressure and decades of complaints. They sought a fresh start and went through the rebranding process.
However, partly due to trademark disputes and trademark issues, the team was unable to use "Washington Red Wolves" as their new brand.
On February 2, 2022, after a long period of debate and public pressure, the team announced their new nickname from their list of options. It was announced that the team's new name was “Washington Commanders.”
The Issue With the Fan-Favorite Nickname
The Red Wolves was a popular choice for a nickname amongst both Washington fans and Washington veterans. Fan favorites can be crucial to a team's decision because a fan base is a vital asset.
Regardless, the name was already embroiled in a trademark battle. The Red Wolves was a registered trademark by another team.
In fact, it was used by two sports-related entities — the Arkansas State University and the Chattanooga Red Wolves SC.
In light of the prospect of years of litigation, the Washington team decided to opt out of using the name shortly after considering “Wolves” and looking into the trademark of its variations, which include Red Wolves.
As the Washington team president noted, the trademarks currently held by other teams can potentially limit their ability to use the name fully.
Arkansas vs. Chattanooga
The Arkansas State University Red Wolves, based in Jonesboro, Arkansas, participate in the NCAA football division. All of the university’s athletic teams have used the nickname Red Wolves for years.
Meanwhile, the Chattanooga Red Wolves SC is a professional soccer team based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. They compete in the United Soccer League (USL) League One.
Both teams used trademarks for their respective team names, both of which included the words “Red Wolves.”
However, let's look at their trademark applications filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Arkansas State filed for registration first back in 2008. On the other hand, Chattanooga filed its registration more recently in 2018.
This soon led to some trademark infringement disputes at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Representatives from the Arkansas State University sent a cease and desist request to the Chattanooga SC, noting their willingness to go to court and request for a name change.
In response, the Chattanooga SC sued the university, defending itself by saying its use of the nickname does not infringe on the other party’s rights.
Who Owns the Red Wolves Trademark Now?
In the trademark dispute between Arkansas State University and Chattanooga SC, the state university can be considered the official owner of the nickname trademark.
This is based not only on when they first registered the trademark but also the fact that their registration status is marked as “renewed.” The university not only filed a specific trademark registration for “Red Wolves Arkansas State” but also for “Red Wolves” individually.
In comparison, the trademark registration application for Chattanooga Red Wolves SC is marked as “opposition pending.”
If we expand the scope beyond sports or athletic-related Red Wolves trademarks, another name emerges.
Seek Assistance From a Trademark Attorney
The journey of the Washington football team underscores the challenges involved with trademark registration and the crucial need for due diligence.
Do you have trademark name options that you are considering?
If you want to avoid similar legal hurdles or navigate such challenges as successfully as the Washington Commanders, then hiring a trademark attorney might be your best course of action.
Working with an experienced and knowledgeable trademark attorney will significantly increase your likelihood of obtaining a successful registration.
I’d be glad to help you register a trademark for your business and ensure proper trademark research pursuant to updated trademark law. Contact our office anytime at (754) 800-4481 or schedule a consultation online.
Legal Disclaimer: The content provided in this blog post is intended solely for educational purposes. It does not constitute or provide legal advice. Legal advice is given by Attorney Melissa D. Goolsarran Ramnauth, Esq. only after signing a legal retainer agreement.