A lot of people are freaking out about the $10,500 fine handed down to Frank Gore for wearing his socks too low in the NFC Championship Game. Don’t get me wrong, it’s yet another awful abuse of authority by Roger Goodell, but it also doesn’t crack the top 5 of ridiculous fines meted out by The Rog for uniform violations.
What’s more rage inducing is the NFL bullying an industrious guy who beat them to the punch on trademarking “Harbowl” and “Harbaugh Bowl”, forcing him to relinquish it and giving him nothing in return. An Indiana man named Roy Fox claims that he spent more than $1,000 to trademark the terms in February of last year. He secured the trademarks, but then the NFL realized someone else might be making money off them and sic’ed their lawyers on him.
“Right before the conference championship games last year, I thought to myself, ‘Can you imagine if these guys played each other?'” Fox said. “If Pat Riley would go through the trouble of trademarking three-peat, why shouldn’t I try this?”
But in August, a couple of weeks before this season started, the NFL sent a note to Fox saying that it was concerned that his recent trademarks could easily be confused with the NFL’s trademark of Super Bowl.
“There were two questions asked of him,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. “Was he affiliated with any NFL teams? The answer was no. And was he in any way affiliated with the Harbaugh brothers? And that answer was no.”
In follow-up correspondence provided to ESPN.com by Fox, the NFL encouraged Fox to abandon the marks, citing conflict with its mark.
Fox said the league refused to provide him with any remedy. He first asked the league to reimburse him for his costs to file for the trademarks. He also asked for a couple of Colts season tickets and an autographed photo of league commissioner Roger Goodell.
He says the person within the league office he spoke to denied all his requests. After the language got increasingly more threatening, including one note that said the league would oppose his filing and seek to have him pay its legal bills, Fox eventually obliged.
I’ll grant that Fox saw an opportunity to squat on trademarks for things that he was not involved with, and perhaps that’s not the most noble thing in the world, but you know what? That he was able to do it was the fault of the NFL for being too careless to bother trademarking the terms to begin with. There’s no way those should have been available last February when the Harbaugh Bowl came so close to happening last year. Instead, the NFL got beat by the little guy and remedied the situation by throwing its weight around with their team of lawyers.
All that said, anybody who wants a signed photo of Roger Goodell doesn’t deserve to have nice things.