A (Potential) Hog Wild Trademark Dispute

Rivkin Radler LLP

The phrase “waiting all day for Sunday night” is usually associated with football. But this Sunday, it may be associated with something entirely different — a potential trademark dispute.

After years of fighting over its previous name, the Washington Commanders are no strangers to trademark disputes. But this potential dispute is a little different. According to sources, the Commanders are set to reveal their new mascot — which will either be a dog or hog — during halftime of this Sunday’s matchup against the Cleveland Browns. In addition to revealing a new mascot, the halftime festivities are also scheduled to include a planned celebration of “The Hogs,” the moniker given to Washington’s championship offensive line during the 1980’s and early 1990’s.

And therein lies the rub.

An attorney representing certain members of “The Hogs” indicated that his clients will not be in attendance at the ceremony and take exception to the use of a hog mascot by the Commanders. According to a press release issued by counsel for O-Line Entertainment LLC that was tweeted by an NBC Sports correspondent:

Dan Snyder and the Washington Commanders are trying to profit off the original HOGS legacy by taking that trademark and associated goodwill and brand equity of the original HOGS. The Commanders are using the original HOGS brand for commercial purposes with NO compensation to the men whose blood & sweat equity built the original HOGS brand 40 years ago.

To that end, according to records maintained by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, O-Line Entertainment LLC filed two separate intent to use trademark applications in July 2022 for HOGS and ORIGINAL HOGS in connection with a variety of goods and services, including, clothing, online retail store services featuring football memorabilia and entertainment services.

That said, according to a statement made by the Commanders:

We are planning a celebration of the greatest offensive line to ever to play the game. The HOGS are a key part of our franchise’s history and we want to keep their legacy alive with the next generation of fans. We have been working with the Hogs on this event for six months and look forward to welcoming them and Coach Gibbs back.

Indeed, should the Commanders move forward and select a hog as its new mascot, and should litigation follow, there are many open issues that may need to be addressed. For example, do any trademark rights exist with respect to the HOGS mark? If so, who owns such rights? Will consumers be confused by the Commanders’ use of a hog as a mascot? And perhaps most importantly, will the parties attempt to avoid a protracted, public, trademark dispute by negotiating a business resolution? So much remains unseen.

Maybe the Commanders will just choose the dog.