A&M steps up fight over promotion of '12th Man'

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M sought a restraining
order Monday against the Seattle Seahawks, asking the NFC champions
to stop promoting the "12th Man" marketing campaign.

The school filed the request in district court in Brazos County,
arguing that the Seahawks are infringing on A&M's legal claim to
the "12th Man" slogan. The school claims it created the moniker
more than 80 years ago and owns the rights to use it.

"Texas A&M University certainly has no ill will towards the
Seattle Seahawks," said Steve Moore, A&M's chief marketing officer
and vice president for communications. "However, we have the
responsibility and legal obligation to protect the university's
trademarks, which in this instance is the '12th Man.' "

The Seahawks, who play Pittsburgh in Sunday's Super Bowl, have
recognized their followers as a "12th Man" since the mid-1980s,
when capacity crowds turned the now-demolished Kingdome into one of
the NFL's loudest venues. The team retired the No. 12 in 1984.

Now, the team plays at Qwest Field and its playoff run has
rekindled the "12th Man" symbol and brought it into the national
spotlight. A banner with the number 12 on it hung from the team's
hotel in Dearborn, Mich., on Monday. A No. 12 flag now waves atop
the city's signature Space Needle and the slogan, in some form,
appears on team merchandise, including jerseys and computer desktop wallpaper.

In Olympia, Wash., Gov. Chris Gregoire hoisted a "12th Man"
flag at the state Capitol on Monday, and proclaimed this coming
weekend as "Seattle Seahawks Super Weekend." A Gregoire
spokeswoman did not immediately return a call for comment Monday
night on the Texas A&M action.

At A&M, meanwhile, "The 12th Man" is a symbol of fan support
that dates to 1922. It began when a student, E. King Gill, was
pulled from the stands to suit up for the injury-depleted Aggies as
they faced top-ranked Centre College. Gill never got in the game,
but the Aggies won 22-14.

The tradition has evolved into a campus-wide commitment to
support the football team. Students stand for entire games at Kyle
Field and at times, they join arms and sway in unison, causing the
stadium to literally shake. The words "Home of the 12th Man" are
emblazoned in maroon across the concrete facade splitting the upper
and lower decks.

" 'The 12th Man' is one of our most treasured traditions,
recognized by most as one of the most compelling in collegiate
athletics," Moore said.

The school sent letters to the Seahawks in 2004 and 2005, asking
the team to stop its use of the "12th Man" slogan, Moore said,
but the team never responded.

"Therefore, we have no other recourse but to take formal legal
action," he said.

The Seahawks declined to comment.

A&M has twice registered trademarks for "The 12th Man" label --
in 1990 and 1996 -- that include entertainment services, "namely
organizing and conducting intercollegiate sporting events," and
products, such as caps, T-shirts, novelty buttons and jewelry.

"Texas A&M has done everything in its power to bring closure to
this situation," Moore said. "Our hope is that the Seahawk
organization will recognize our federal trademark and bring closure
to this situation."