What’s in a name? Awful Names the Texans Avoided

Before they were the Texans, Houston filed a ton of weird names (the Wildcatters and the Roustabouts?) with the U.S. Trademark office.

The Houston Texans were nearly the Houston Roughnecks.

Before a professional sports team is formed, they must select a name. Part of this process includes trademarking aspects of the name to avoid confusing consumers.

Interestingly, however, teams fall all over the spectrum in terms of making sure their names are protected. Some teams seek too many registrations, some are woefully unprepared, and some teams lose registration.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office issues patents (for inventions) and trademarks (for product identification). The USTPO approves of requests both on the mark itself and how it is used.

Here are the good, the bad, and the ugly of team trademark case studies.

The Good

Oct 8, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; General view of a Houston Texans helmet before a game against the Indianapolis Colts at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

A quick USTPO trademark search reveals a ton of hilarious team names that never made the cut.

In particular, the Houston Texans are an interesting case study. The Houston Texans are the NFL’s youngest team. The Texans were formed by Houston NFL Holdings LLC in 2002. ‘Houston Holdings’ filed a bevy of intent-to-use trademark applications. The goal: giving Houston Holdings numerous options.

Trademarks issued for the unused names are expired.

So, which options were the Texans choosing from?

Texans (obviously)

Stormcats (?)

Wildcats

Bobcats

Challengers (kinda cool, actually)

Apollos

Toros

Wranglers (Brett Favre/Wrangler Jeans match made in heaven)

Roughriders

Colt 45’s

Roughnecks (??)

Energy (I guess the Oil-Billionaires didn’t test as well?)

Hurricanes 

Thus, Houston Holdings came prepared. In contrast, the ‘Golden Knights’ really didn’t.

The majority of these trademark applications were filed in December, 1999. The Houston Texans did not play their first game until 2002. The Texans’ unused trademarks were ‘abandoned’ in 2000.

I think the Texans fan base is lucky they chose they way they did.

The ‘Disparaging’

Some NFL team names have less entertaining histories.

Redskinslogo

Notably, the Washington Redskins. The Washington Redskins operate without complete trademark protection. This is because the Redskins team name is disparaging and the USTPO can choose not to allow registrations for disparaging marks.

In October, the Supreme Court of the United States denied Washington’s request to challenge this decision. In their arguments, the USTPO stated, “the Constitution does not require Congress to open the federal trademark registration system to racial epithets.” Thus, the Redskins now operate without protection for some of their products.

Washington’s non-protected status also means that they do not have national exclusivity over their mark.

The Ugly

The worst case scenario: the Vegas Golden Knights.

This week, a scandal ensued after the United States Patent and Trademark Office denied the application of the NHL’s Vegas ‘Golden Knights.’ The Knights were denied because their logos were too similar to other franchises.

Technically, this means that the Golden Knights will live in a similar sphere as the Redskins. This is interesting because, like the Texans, teams usually try to have their marks protected early in the process. The Knights play in 2017. Comparatively, the Texans applied for their marks three years before they played their first game.

This process is called ‘intent-to-use,’ where the organization attempts to protect a name not yet chosen. If properly filed, an intent-to-use means the team has rights to the trademark for up to three years. If a mark is unused, it is abandoned; just like the Houston Stormcats.

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