The NFL’s Washington team has gone through a couple of rebrands the past few years. The team settled on the “Commanders” as the team’s nickname last year and filed a trademark application for the term in February 2022. Last week, the USPTO issued a non-final office action denying the application based in part because of the USPTO’s claim that it is too similar to a prior registered mark.
The USPTO examining attorney cited an existing mark, the “Commander’s Classic”, as being too similar to the Commander’s proposed mark. The “Commander’s Classic” is a college football bowl game played annually between Army and Air Force. The non-final office action alleges in part that the NFL Commander’s proposed mark is too similar in appearance and too similar in the goods or services offered.
The NFL’s Washington Commanders now have three months to respond and submit arguments in support of registering the mark. My opinion is that the Commanders will be able to submit sufficient evidence to show that the NFL’s Commander’s would not be confused with the annual Army-Air Force game. NFL football is simply a completely different product than college football. Further, the pageantry and style of play of the Army-Air Force game would never be confused with an NFL game.
I think it is likely that the NFL’s Washington Commanders will ultimately be successful with their trademark application. The takeaway from this for small businesses and startups is to perform a comprehensive clearance search and file early. If a multi billion dollar NFL franchise can receive a likelihood of confusion denial, then anybody can.
Feel free to Contact Alex to discuss the post, football, or to get started on registering your trademarks.