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Where Trademarked “Eagles” Dare

[Cross-posted from Concurring Opinions]

The world is again safe for trademark law, now that the National Rifle Association has put an end to efforts at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse to name the university’s eagle mascot “Eddie.”

For 20 years, the eagle has been the mascot of athletic teams at UW-L. Only earlier this month, however, did students at the campus get around to voting on a name for the bird, and the name they chose was “Eddie.” Unfortunately, “Eddie” is also the trademarked name of the mascot of the NRA’s “Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program,” which is aimed at students in pre-K through the third grade.  Apparently claiming that marketplace confusion would likely result from use of “Eddie the Eagle” in a post-secondary educational setting, when benchmarked against the elementary educational programming offered by the NRA, the NRA forced the university to stand down.

Undeterred by possible claims of intellectual property rights in alternative names, the students re-voted and named their eagle “Colbert.” Apparently, neither the actor nor the character objects to the use of a name that is likely protected by trademark law and right of privacy and/or publicity law, or both — despite the obvious and ubiquitous association of “Colbert” with eagles.  This seems to put Stephen Colbert squarely at odds with the National Rifle Association, at least when it comes to symbolic representations of birds of prey. 

There is no word on the matter of the validity of the NRA’s mark from the original Eddie the Eagle – Eddie Edwards, former ski jumping champion of Great Britain and world-famous competitor in the Calgary Olympics, who taught all of us important life lessons.