University of Alabama Threatens Clay Travis Over T-shirt, Receives Trademark Law Lesson
The University of Alabama is threatening to sue former Fox Sports personality Clay Travis after his website, Outkick the Coverage, started selling a T-shirt referencing Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
The shirt, which says "Aloha B*tches," was also used by Travis to commemorate Hawaiian quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Following Alabama's (and Tagovailoa's) appearance in the national title game, the university sent Travis a four-page letter threatening to sue if he didn't stop selling the shirt, claiming that people would think the university had licensed the shirt officially. The university also claimed that the red "A" on the shirt was too much like the cursive "A" the university trademarked for its own athletics and merchandising identities, according to The Big Lead.
Travis, who has never been one to shy away from controversy, responded by tweeting a link to buy the shirt, and thanked the university "for the free publicity for all our delightful [Outkick the Coverage] products."
I would also encourage all of you to go buy our Aloha, bitches tshirts. And like to thank the University of Alabama for the free publicity for all our delightful @outkick products. https://t.co/SxS6XvXwkj
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) January 18, 2018
He also posted a response on his website:
The A on our shirt is definitely not the Alabama A that you have trademarked and copyrighted, it is just a cursive A.
Moreover no one thinks an Outkick shirt is licensed by Alabama. Certainly not one that was expressly made because we have been selling “Aloha, b*tches,” shirts in honor of Marcus Mariota for over a year on the site.
Is it your contention that Alabama controls the use of all cursive letter A’s on all shirts? Would you like to design and email the site a cursive A that would be permissible to use? I’d be interested to see your version and would be potentially willing to change our A to one you deem more appropriate if it works on the shirt.
If you’d like us to add a disclaimer that says the shirts aren’t licensed or endorsed by Alabama—or publish your letter on Outkick saying the same—I’m happy to do that as well.
But, as a lawyer who has worked in trademark and copyright law, I’m not sure what claim you guys have here. You don’t have a copyright on our cursive version of the letter A or any claim on the phrases used on the shirt.
Let me know if you’d like me to add language on the page saying Alabama isn’t involved in any way with the T-shirts. Or if you’d like me to publish your letter on the site saying the same. Or if you intend to send me an acceptable cursive A for the T-shirts.
It's snarky, but he's got a point. Alabama certainly has the rights to its own style of cursive A, but it doesn't have the rights to every cursive A.
Though copyright disputes, especially those relating to college sports or athletes, can be tricky, this seems like a fairly open-and-shut case.