Texas A&M is Horrible, Sues Local Bills Fan

logoIf you believe Texas A&M – a huge, well-regarded public university – Charles “Chuckie” Sonntag is the face of intellectual property theft in America. 

If you ask anyone around here, he’s an all-around nice guy.  He’s also a recent cancer survivor. And a double amputee. And confined to a wheelchair. And a recipient of Social Security Disability.  Chuckie Sonntag is not a deep-pocketed fellow. 

Chuckie Sonntag ran afoul of Texas A&M because he started a local movement to keep the Bills in Buffalo, and called it “12th Man Thunder”. Even a sports ignorant like I am knows that “12th man” refers to the fan in the stands, who cheers for his team.  It has already been changed to “Bills Fan Thunder” to appease an aggressive bully, Texas A&M. 

Perhaps Chuckie should have simply created a gender-neutral alternative and told Texas A&M to go to hell.  12th Player? 12th Position? A quick glance at the Wikipedia entry for “12th Man” shows that it’s used commonly by many teams. Texas A&M also holds the trademark on the term “12th Man”, and is very aggressive in enforcing it

Here’s Chuckie, whom Texas A&M just sued. I don’t do IP law, so I can’t opine on the legal issues in anything more than a rudimentary manner, but this whole thing seems outrageous and palpably unfair. From the trademark filing, the school owns “12th Man”.  

Maybe Sonntag should use “Twelfth Man”.

Sonntag isn’t using the mark for commercial reasons; he isn’t  making money on it. The term is common and, registration notwithstanding, not unique to Texas A&M. It would be wonderful to see someone challenge the validity of the underlying mark.  Seems unlikely to succeed, but I cannot tolerate big public universities bullying a grassroots fan effort like this. 

 The press release is below. 

“I can’t afford to pay an attorney but their lawsuit could cost me between $50,000 and $500,000,” Charles “Chuckie” Sonntag said. “That pretty much wipes out my $800 monthly Social Security check for the rest of my life.” Chuckie, who beat cancer last year, has suffered from polyostotic fibrous dysplasia – Albright’s Disease – since childhood and lost his left arm 20 years ago. In March, doctor’s
amputated his left leg.

Recovering In his hospital bed, Chuckie and his close friends decided to do something to stop the NFL Bills from leaving Buffalo – and “12thManThunder.com” was born. Established only two months ago, the idea took off and today is 10,000 Bills fans strong and growing. The group’s efforts have given a voice to loyal Bills fans at a time when their team may be moved to another city. Even local businesses have rallied around the group to donate 10 Bills season tickets for the city’s at-risk youth.

“My experience has proven two things: a handicapped person can accomplish just about anything – and Texas A&M will sue just about anybody,” Chuckie said.

On May 27th the University ordered its high-powered attorneys to demand Chuckie cease using the term “12th Man,” asserting a trademark they won in 1989 for the widely-used phrase meaning “fan support”. 

Many high schools in the United States incorporate 12th Man language into their booster clubs, including the Altaloma Braves, Dana Hills Dolphins, Seneca Golden Eagles, Washington Panthers, Richwood Knights, Diamond Bar Brahmas, Fairfield Falcons, and Brentwood Bruins.

Legally, Texas A&M could have moved on any of these groups or dozens more. Instead, on Monday, the University filed suit against a double amputee cancer survivor 1,500 miles away from College Station.

By filing suit, the University exposes Chuckie to automatic fines and fees – even though he expressed a willingness to cooperate. At one point, they gave him 24 hours to hand over all Internet domain names he bought, the T-shirts he printed and many other items. With the help of friends, he changed the name of his group to “BillsFanThunder.com” and stopped infringing on the trademark as fast as he could.

“How am I supposed to comply with their demands so quickly? I can’t even type that fast – I only have one hand,” Chuckie said.

Chuckie Sonntag is well known in Buffalo – for decades he has parked cars on the lawn of the small home he inherited next to the Buffalo Bills stadium. Unable to work, he devotes his time to helping two area non-profit organizations. He was honored this past weekend for surviving his bout with cancer during festivities at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo.

Assemblyman Steve Katz on the Bills Stadium

The next time you get all parochial and upset about something that’s happening in some other part of the state, and think to yourself, “why should we pay for that?” consider this.

Assemblyman Steve Katz (R-Yorktown) represents the 94th Assembly District, and is a Republican representing extreme northern Westchester and part of Putnam Counties. (He happens to be my parents’ Assemblyman). When confronted with a bill to send $60 million in state funds to renovate Ralph Wilson stadium, he said,

Manhattan Democratic Assemblyman Herman Farrell, Jr., (D-Washington Heights) the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, brought up the examples of the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn and the Jets and Giants playing in New Jersey. A Democrat from Manhattan defending your hobby fandom against a Republican from the rural New York exurbs? Consider that, Buffalo.

 

Mario Williams Buffalo Bills Press Conference

http://cdn.livestream.com/embed/nflbills?layout=4&height=340&width=560&autoplay=false

Watch live streaming video from nflbills at livestream.com

#BradyonBuffalo

Yesterday morning, the story broke that a very mean meanie of a man-child who plays catch for a living deigned to say something critical of our fair burgh. As usually happens in these situations (e.g., hockey players who quite correctly criticize how dead our downtown is after business hours), our local media and commentariat freak the hell out, defending to the death the mistaken notion that Buffalo is a world-class city.

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/164706823868391424″]

Seeing that Channel 2 and 4 were turning this into the top story, I started the #BradyonBuffalo meme.

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/164729090367168513″]

The purpose of it – and most people got it – was not to mock Brady, but to mock our community sensitivity and over-reaction to what a Tom Brady thinks of Buffalo. Here’s a multi-millionaire superstar about to play in his fifth Super Bowl. He’s won three of them already. He lives in a world-class city – a Boston that just thirty years ago was a parochially-minded, predominately Catholic, faded and crumbling city with a shrinking tax base and a massive inferiority complex. Today, Boston is a world-class city, and Buffalo isn’t. It’s a simple fact that we should just accept.

Take, for instance, how Channel 4 reported on Wednesday’s meme:

Brady’s comments started a flurry of conversation on Twitter, with Buffalo Twitter users using the hashtag #BradyonBuffalo to mock Brady’s comments.

No, we used it to mock Buffalonians’ oversensitivity to outsiders’ criticism of our region. We used it to poke fun at the predictable top-story treatment this would get in all local media, complete with angry reactions from tourism officials and political figures.

You know what? With three exceptions – the Mansion at Delaware, the Hampton Inn on Chippewa, and the Embassy Suites at the Avant, Buffalo hotels are pretty crappy. I mean, have you set foot in the last Adams Mark on Earth yet? Leave it to a concrete eyesore in Buffalo to cling to a dead chain’s trademark. Tim Graham in the Buffalo News is, so far, the only local mainstream media type to get it exactly right, pointing out the small number of local hotels that can accommodate a football team (hint: the Mansion isn’t one of them).

Here are some of my favorites. Stop being such a whiny crybaby, Buffalo. Suck it up.

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/164749236821434368″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/ChrisSmithAV/status/164738559474012160″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/j_kruk/status/164730321735135234″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/164733731523919873″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/DerekPunaro/status/164733931818717185″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/164733607246704640″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/164732215677300738″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/164800859295858688″]

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