[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 universityâ€™s eagle mascot â€œEddie.â€
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 â€œEddie.â€ Unfortunately, â€œEddieâ€ is also the trademarked name of the mascot of the NRAâ€™s â€œEddie Eagle GunSafe Program,â€ which is aimed at students inÂ pre-K through the thirdÂ grade.Â Apparently claiming that marketplace confusion would likely result from use of â€œEddie the Eagleâ€ 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 â€œColbert.â€ 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 â€” despite the obvious and ubiquitous association of â€œColbertâ€ with eagles.Â Â This seems to put Stephen Colbert squarely at odds with the National Rifle Association, at leastÂ when it comes to symbolic representations of birds of prey.Â
There is no word on the matter of the validity of the NRAâ€™s markÂ 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.