It's hard to not love that the Minnesota Vikings immediately filed trademark applications following the team's miracle win against the New Orleans Saints in the NFL playoffs. The Vikings filed to protect "Minneapolis Miracle" and "Minnesota Miracle" for a small cost that could result in a lot of money saved as well as money earned through licensing from the somewhat simple filings.
In 2015, the NFL seized over 326,147 items of counterfeit sports merchandise that was worth more than $19.5 million, according to an International Trademark Association interview NFL lawyer Dolores DiBella.
"Counterfeit activity is a crime and an ongoing challenge facing all brand owners," said DiBella. "The NFL is vigilant in protecting its fans and business partners, including by working with law enforcement and industry colleagues to combat counterfeiting year-round."
But there's many other items worthy of being designated as infringing team names, logos, colors, etc. beyond that which is deemed counterfeit. The Vikings wish to be proactive about enforcing their valuable marks.
And the Vikings are not alone as being a sports team that takes its intellectual property seriously. Texas A&M has long been known for its "12th Man" mark, which is intended to designate the football team's rabid fan base as being the "12th man" on the field of play, which only allows for a total of 11 players on the field for each team. The school sued both the Seattle Seahawks as well as the Indianapolis Colts for their use of the mark, settling each case and enforcing what it believes to be a very important trademark.
For the Vikings, this type of quick trademark application filing following a momentous event is particularly important in today's quick-to-act society. It is rather easy for an individual to create an online store on a website such as Etsy and begin selling merchandise immediately. While the Vikings may be able to assert common law rights over their marks, a trademark registration actually implies ownership in the classes asserted in the application and brings with it the valuable tool of seeking enhanced damages. The filing alone should serve to discourage others from trying to take advantage of the Minneapolis Miracle and Minnesota Miracle marks, as it demonstrates the team's seriousness about exploiting the marks commercially.
So, good job Vikings. This tactic is something other sports teams and businesses in general should consider when launching a brand or simply a new mark into the wild.