Reebok sued over ‘Finish Strong’ Saints T-shirts
NEW ORLEANS (AP) – The New Orleans Saints’ Super Bowl-winning season has led to a trademark dispute involving the team’s unofficial 2009 motto and two manufacturers of athletic wear.
In a suit filed in Chicago federal court, Finish Strong LLC claims trademark infringement by Reebok International LLC, which manufactured and marketed a T-shirt using the “Finish Strong” mantra that Saints quarterback Drew Brees adopted during the 2009 NFL season.
Finish Strong claims it has had a registered trademark on the phrase since 1998 and uses it in a branded line of apparel including T-shirts, pants, skirts and shirts.
The Reebok T-shirt carries the slogan: “We Finish Strong! We Are Saints.”
The suit, filed on Feb. 25, asks for Reebok to turn over all profits from the shirt to Naperville, Ill.-based Finish Strong, plus unspecified damages.
In a statement, Canton, Mass.-based Reebok said it did not believe it was infringing on Finish Strong’s rights. The company said it was not aware of Finish Strong until December, when it received an attorney’s letter, and the words “Finish Strong” had been adopted to describe the Saints’ style of play “and widely adopted and reported in the media at that time.
“We clearly used the words in a purely descriptive manner, which is obvious from the T-shirt presentation, and not in any way likely to be taken as an indication of origin, which could be confused with Finish Strong LLC,” said Reebok, which is owned by Frankfurt, Germany-based Adidas AG.
The suit said Brees adopted the “Finish Strong” mantra after reading a book by the same title by company founder and owner Dan Green. Neither the Saints nor Brees were named as defendants.
On the Finish Strong Web site, Green’s book was being advertised, along with a YouTube video of the Saints’ Super Bowl win.
In the days leading to the Saints’ first-ever Super Bowl appearance, a separate trademark dispute erupted between the National Football League and New Orleans T-shirt makers who were selling shirts with the phrase “Who Dat.”
After some T-shirt makers were hit by cease-and-desist letters by the league, Louisiana’s attorney general conferred with NFL counsel and said the league was only targeting shirts that were marketed or presented as official Saints gear. The dispute, a big topic before the big game on radio talk shows, died down after that and no suits were filed.
The chant – “Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints” – is often shortened to “Who Dat” on shirts and signs and has been a mainstay at the Superdome since the 1980s.
Finish Strong LLC: http://finishstrong.com/home/
Reebok corporate site: http://corporate.reebok.com/en/about(underscore)reebok/default.asp
New Orleans Saints: http://www.neworleanssaints.com/