Tuesday December 5, 2023

New Commanders Mascot Could Lead to Trademark Battle

  • Attorney for five original members of the Hogs vowed a trademark fight on Monday.
  • Commanders are set to announce new mascot at Sunday's regular season home finale.
Washington Commanders fans wearing hog costumes
Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports
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The Washington Commanders’ unveiling of their new mascot could lead to a trademark fight with five legendary former players. 

The choices are a dog and a hog — the latter was trademarked in July by O-Line Entertainment, an LCC formed by original Hogs Joe Jacoby, Mark May, John Riggins, Fred Dean, and Doc Walker. The new mascot is slated to be announced during Sunday’s home game against the Browns.

“If they go forward on Sunday and make the hog their mascot and try to trademark it, we are going to be forced into trademark infringement litigation,” O-Line Entertainment attorney Seth Berenzweig told Front Office Sports. 

“We’ve made it very clear to them that we believe they’d be infringing on the trademark, and they need to arrange a licensing deal with the players. They have refused to do that.”

Berenzweig threatened legal action in a news release on Monday ahead of the team’s celebration of the Hogs’ 40th anniversary on Sunday. 

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“We are planning a celebration of the greatest offensive line ever to play the game,” the Commanders said in a statement. “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.”

The Hogettes, a once-prominent group of fans, are also slated to return to FedEx Field Sunday after a few dormant seasons. 

There was a fan vote earlier this year that narrowed the species of the team’s mascot down to a dog or hog. The names of the mascots fans chose included Boss, EZ, Lieutenant, Lil General, Major, Tuddy, Winstan, or “other.”

O-Line Entertainment filed for two trademarks last summer: Hogs and Original Hogs. Both are expected to have an initial response from the USPTO within the next several weeks. 

Even if the team taps the pig (or hog) as the mascot, trademark attorney Zak Kurtz told FOS that Commanders could have the advantage in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

“Unless they’re commercially using the words ‘OG Hogs’ or ‘Original Hogs,’ it would be a tough claim to win if the Commanders challenged them,” said Kurtz, founder of the firm Sneaker & Streetwear Legal Services. “Even then, Washington could probably prevail. The team could say, ‘We had ownership to it first.’”

The team hasn’t challenged the trademark, and a source with knowledge of the situation told FOS that the Commanders have no plans to use the Hogs for financial gain. 

The Commanders had a trademark for Hogs that was abandoned in 1991, but Kurtz said the team could argue that it used the trademark first if faced with a legal challenge by the former players.

The team already faces two lawsuits filed by the D.C Attorney General’s Office as team owner Dan Snyder is exploring a sale of the franchise he purchased in 1999. 

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