Los Angeles – Recently, when the owners of Green Bay Distillery in Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin announced their plans for a new bar/restaurant to be called Titletown Distilllery, they faced the defense of the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers politely informed the distillers that they owned the federally registered trademark, ‘Tiltetown’, which was registered in several different business classes back in November 2010. The owners of the new restaurant decided to go with Green Bay Distillery instead.
Titletown, a nickname given to Green Bay in the 1960’s to pay homage to the fact that the Packer’s had won five NFL championships out of seven, is just one of several trademarks owned by the 2011 Superbowl champs. Other trademarks owned by the team include Lambeau Field, Packers, and the team’s iconic, oval “G.”
Although the Packers understand the value of protecting their registered trademarks, the team also realizes that it must tread lightly when dealing with local businesses over these legal issues, acknowledging the fact that Titletown essentially belongs to the fans. Jason Wied, Packers vice president of administration and general counsel, said that after a friendly discussion with the distillery about the trademark, it was the distillery that decided to give up the Titletown name.
There are several established businesses in Green Bay that have been using the Titletown trademark for years. There is Titletown Brewing Co., Titletown Train Show, Titletown Oil, and the Green Bay Chamber of Commerce’s web address is www.titletown.org, and the city includes Titletown U.S.A. in its logo. However, most of these entities have priority of use and so wouldn’t have to cease use if requested by the Packers.
Most of these businesses with priority of use are practicing their “common law” rights, in which a federal registration is not required to establish rights to a trademark. These rights are based on actual use of the trademark and may allow the common law user to successfully challenge a trademark application or registration. Common law trademarks are related to products and services in a particular geographic region and are established by years of use.
In the case of Titletown, it appears that local businesses and municipalities are respectful of how the name was derived and use the name harmoniously with the NFL team.