By Gregory Moore
“Who Dat…who dat…who dat think gonna beat dem Saints!”
Okay you know the slogan and you know that it is a fan chant in New Orleans in referenced to the beloved New Orleans Saints, the NFL franchise that is down in Miami for its first ever Super Bowl appearance.
And undoubtedly you probably have now either heard or read about the bruhaha that is now circling South Beach as the NFL and Who Dat?, Inc., have sent out letters of cease and desist to quite few t-shirt manufacturers and shop keepers who are selling the slogan with the team’s logo and the phrase up under it or somewhere on the shirt.
Thousands of fans are saying that the NFL is wrong in this matter and that no one owns the slogan.
And it’s probably easy to jump on the side of the small guy because not too many people care about big business until they become one themselves.
Yet here is where EVERY Saint fan is wrong in their assumption and their argument: they do not understand the history of the slogan nor do they seem to realize that intellectual property can be copyrighted and/or trademarked.
Before we delve into the “who dat?” fracas, let’s have a little quiz on whether you know or understand the usage and ownership of such intellectual properties.
For example, when you see an apple bitten near the top on a magazine page, what’s the first company that comes to your mind?
It’s Apple, Inc. of course. They made that symbol their logo and trademarked it as such. And so is the term iPod, iPhone, iPad and anything else associated with the company.
When you say, “three peat”, do you know who came up with the phrase?
It’s Pat Riley, president and general manager of the Miami Heat.
He coined the phrase back in the 1980s when he was coaching the Los Angeles Lakers and he copyrighted the phrase.
I’ll bring you closer to home with one.
Do you think the San Antonio Spurs own the phrase, “Go Spurs Go”?
I don’t know if the team and/or league owns the phrase outright as an intellectucal property but it is used in conjunction with the Spurs’ logos and such so I would have to make the assumption that it is a part of the trademark.
And that is what brings us to the New Orleans Saints’ slogan of “who dat?”. Is it an intellectual property or is it out in the domain.
For the record, it is an intellectual property BUT it is not owned by the NFL or the Saints. It is owned by the company mentioned above, Who Dat?, Inc.
The phrase came from two brothers, Sal and Steve Monistere. The Monisteres are long time fans of the Saints from the very beginning and they produced a 1983 song with Aaron Nevile in which the now famous phrase is uttered.
Okay so you’re still thinking that anyone should be able to print a t-shirt with the slogan right?
What the Monisteres did was not only legal but business savvy to boot. They registered the phrase with the state of Louisiania which clearly shows who owns the rights to the phrase. And being smart business guys, they probably made sure that they partnered up with the NFL licensing arm so that they would be the only company to have the “who dat?” phrase be officially a part of any Saints apparel that have the NFL logo on it.
As a matter of fact the Saints don’t even have a claim to the phrase as evidenced in a letter to the Secretary of State on who owns the slogan.
Yeah they capitalized on a craze and a community slogan but to call them crooked, to try and steal from them just because the Saints are in the Super Bowl, is just wrong.
(By the way, you do realize that the Super Bowl name itself is actually an intellectual property of the NFL? Didn’t know that did you.)
PROTECTING INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY VITAL
Now fans may still think that all of this is a load of crap and that no one gets hurt but that is the typical stance of someone who isn’t looking at the bigger picture.
Let me show you why it is so important to protect something like what others have done; even though it seems heartless at the time.
Let’s say that you worked on a product that has become fairly successful in your city and you have a slogan. Now everyone knows your product by that slogan and so what you did from the very beginning is to not only ‘brand’ the product but also protect the product’s name, its image, logo and name by registering it with various organizations including your Secretary of State.
As time goes by, the product becomes a national seller and is now in a market where there is competition.
A small business who sells a similar item decides to produce a ‘knock off’ of your product and they use certain proprietary phrases in describing their product.
Realizing that your ‘brand’ is at stake, you bring it to their attention (as well as your other competitors) in a cease and desist letter.
The competition says you’re wrong in bringing about this letter because the name is in the ‘public domain’.
Now if you’re like many other businessmen and/or women, what you will do is protect your brand at all costs and because you have done your homework and protected yourself, your competition will be forced to stop using that slogan and/or likeness of your product.
Sounds harsh doesn’t it but in the business world, this goes on each and every hour of every day.
What the NFL and/or Who Dat?, Inc. is doing is very similar to what you would do if faced with the same scenario.
Is it wrong when a whole community is trying to back a team’s first appearance in the NFL’s biggest game of the year?
On the surface it looks like it but as we all know, nothing seen on the service appears to be kosher.
But here’s the best way to understand why the NFL and/or the Monestere brothers are doing what they are doing with some of these businesses.
If you didn’t protect your ‘brand’ and product in the scenario given, others would be taking your idea and making money off of it and you would have no legal recourse to stop such action.
That’s what the league and these two brothers are trying to thwart; stop those from making money without their permission and/or not paying royalty fees for the use of the brand in question.
I don’t believe neither entity wants to stop people from making money but they have a legal right to say who can use these images in commercial applications and they have a right to expect some sort of compensation.
It is a part of the American way of capitalism.