Bills fan may face lawsuit over "12th Man" trademark

BUFFALO, NY- A Buffalo Bills fan could face a lawsuit from Texas A&M University over the name of an online fan group he started in March.

Charles Sonntag started a group on Facebook called "12th Man Thunder" while he was hospitalized after having his leg amputated. He had hoped to send a message to the next owner of the Bills to keep the team in Buffalo.

Texas A&M however alleges the name violates their registered trademark for the slogan "12th man".

Sonntag says he changed the name of the website to Bills Fan Thunder after receiving letters to remove the name from Facebook and Twitter.

Charles Von Simson is an attorney with Damon Morey who specializes in intellectual property and trademark issues, says Texas A&M must prove that people would confuse the university and the group because of the term's usage.

"If Texas A&M can't show that confusion, they don't have a trademark case even though they have a federal trademark registration," Von Simson said.

Sonntag says he receives no income from the website, and has since turned it into a charity to take underprivileged children to football games.

In a statement to the The Bryan‑College Station Eagle, the university said they "would prefer to resolve all disputes concerning the 12th Man mark amicably, if possible, Texas A&M takes its ownership of the 12th Man trademark seriously and has a responsibility to protect the mark from unauthorized use."

Texas A&M has filed a complaint about the domain name and the content on Sonntag's website, but has not yet filed a lawsuit.


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