I’ve written several times before about the “Terrible Towel” marks in Pittsburgh and my skepticism about their validity. (The Terrible Towel is a Pittsburgh-specific gold terrycloth towel, with a “Terrible Towel” legend painted on in black, that is the unofficial icon of Pittsburgh Steelers football fans everywhere. Thousands of Terrible Towels are seen in NFL stadia every season, being twirled above fans’ heads.)
The law (or at least the lawyers for the mark’s owner), in its majesty, marches on. The latest development is a lawsuit against the sellers of the “Italian” towel, pictured above, for infringing the marks.
There is no question that the “Italian” towel mimics the authorized Terrible Towel in almost every respect except the choice of language. The Italian-language version has been available from time to time both online and in some Pittsburgh-area stores. I bought mine — photographed above — from a local institution. To protect the innocent, I won’t name it. But the proposition that any local consumers might be confused in any Lanham Act sense is laughable. Everyone in Pittsburgh now knows that the true Terrible Towel is associated with Myron Cope (a late local broadcaster), and the Italian language one pointedly omits any reference to Myron. The Italian towel is a parody.
Of course, the defendants are not laughing now. And they are laughing even less than typical trademark infringement defendants, because the plaintiff included RICO claims against them and requests that the court freeze their revenues — all of their revenues — until they pay their towel-related profits over to the plaintiff.
Previous Terrible Towel posts:
- The Terrible IP Towel
- A Terrible Towel Trademark Tale
- A Terrible Towel Trademark Tale (v.2)
- Another Terrible Trademark Question
- A “Terrible” Trademark Ruling
I am, of course, delighted by the timing. My Trademark Law course begins in a week, and now I have my introductory material for day one of the course.