Seahawks move A&M 12th-man fight to federal court

Updated: February 2, 2006, 4:21 PM ET
Associated Press

BRYAN, Texas -- The Seattle Seahawks ran an end-around on Texas A&M, filing notice Thursday to remove from an Aggie hometown court their dispute over the "12th Man" slogan used by the university and the Super Bowl-bound NFL team.

In a three-page "Notice of Removal" filed about two hours before a scheduled hearing in a Brazos County court just a few miles from the A&M campus, the Seahawks transferred the case to federal court in Houston, about 100 miles away.

According to the motion, since Texas A&M is alleging a violation of its federally registered trademark by the Seahawks, a federal court has jurisdiction in the case.

"It brings everything here to a screeching halt unless the federal court decides to remand it," said state District Judge J.D. Langley.

Langley said the maneuver was fairly common for a case involving entities from different regions.

A&M spokesman Lane Stephenson said he was unaware of a hearing Thursday in federal court and declined to comment further.

The university owns the trademark to its generations-old "12th Man" reference for Aggie supporters in the stands and won a temporary court order in Bryan earlier this week to keep the Seahawks, who play Pittsburgh on Sunday in the Super Bowl, from using "12th Man" in their marketing.

The Seahawks have recognized their followers as a "12th Man" since the mid-1980s and even retired the No. 12 jersey in 1984. Now with Seattle in the Super Bowl, their "12th Man" promotion, which previously has aggravated the Aggies, has gained an even higher profile.

Texas A&M has been arguing the NFL team is infringing on the school's legal claim to the slogan, which they say they've used for more than 80 years. The school twice has registered trademarks for the "12th Man" label -- in 1990 and 1996 -- that include entertainment services and products like caps, T-shirts, novelty buttons and jewelry.

Seattle's version of a "12th Man" banner, a flag with the No. 12 on it, was flying this week from the team's hotel in suburban Detroit. So was a flag atop Seattle's signature Space Needle and the state Capitol in Olympia. Then there's all the team merchandise and apparel with the "12th Man" logo.

At A&M, the slogan dates to 1922 when a student, E. King Gill, was pulled from the stands to suit up for the injury-depleted Aggies as they faced top-ranked Centre College. Gill didn't play, but he was the last player standing on the sidelines in reserve as the Aggies won 22-14.

A tradition was born. "Home of the 12 Man" is in huge letters at Kyle Field, where Aggie students stand during games as a sign of their readiness and support.

A&M sent letters to the Seahawks in 2004 and 2005, protesting use of the slogan. School officials said the team never responded.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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