Terrible Towel — √
Terrible T-Shirt — Um, no.
In American football, Pittsburgh Steelers fans have waved hundreds of thousands yellow Terrible Towels (actually “Myron Cope’s Official The Terrible Towel”) since way back in 1975. (Read about the towels’ legacy in the NY Times here.) Earlier this year, Eugene Berry, owner of Eugene Berry Enterprise, began selling the Terrible T-shirt and attempted to register a trademark for its name. Now a U.S. District Court judge has ruled the Terrible T-shirt is a violation of the Steeler’s trademark. “A black and gold T-shirt with the words ‘The Terrible T-Shirt a Pittsburgh Original’ is strikingly similar to plaintiffs’ marks,” the judge wrote.
The Steelers opposed Berry’s trademark registration and both the Steelers and the Allegheny Valley School Foundation (which owns the rights to the Terrible Towel) filed suit against him. Berry had produced a fraudulent letter that he had given to the merchandise printer, saying that he had obtained permission to create the t-shirts based on the Terrible Towel trademark.
“Utilization of the word ‘Terrible’ along with similar coloring and a reference to ‘A Pittsburgh Original’ is an apparent attempt to create confusion to the tee shirts’ source,” the judge wrote. The ruling continued, “’The Terrible’ has been a registered trademark and in continuous use for more then twenty consecutive years” and “illustrates the characteristics of both a fanciful, distinctive mark and of a famous mark.”
What’s your favorite American football team tradition?