By: Mark R. Malek
I figured that the timing of this story just could not be any better. I was just in Pittsburgh to see the AFC Championship game between the New York Jets and the Pittsburgh Steelers. I have been a lifelong Jets fan and my wife specifically told me – “you’ll regret it the rest of your life if you don’t go.” Of course, I did not take into account the gametime forecast of 4 degrees before booking my flights from Florida up to Pittsburgh, but who cares, right?
For the record, I live in Florida for a reason! I cannot stand the cold, let alone the bitter cold that I somehow survived in Heinz Field. It was one of the greatest sports experiences of my life, and I am really glad I did it. I just wish that the Jets would have pulled it out. Let me also take this opportunity to thank the great City of Pittsburgh for its hospitality. The people of Pittsburgh might be the nicest people that I have ever encountered. The fans showed true sportsman like qualities and everyone (and I do not exaggerate when I say everyone) was very courteous all the time. It was my first visit to Pittsburgh, but certainly will not be my last.
I got thinking on the plane ride back (made especially long by my Pittsburgh Steelers neighbor that I traveled with) about a possible intellectual property story relating to my experience. I had to look no further than the Terrible Towel that I purchased for my kids as a souvenir. Everyone knows what the Terrible Towel is. Made famous in Pittsburgh, it is something that has been copied by many sports franchises. I assumed that “The Terrible Towel” was covered by a U.S. Trademark and boy was I right! According to my quick search on the USPTO website, there are 11 registered trademarks for “The Terrible Towel.”
I dug a bit deeper and noticed that the trademark rights to “The Terrible Towel” family of marks are owned by the Allegheny Valley School Corporation. I had to do some digging to get to the bottom of this and read about the history of “The Terrible Towel.” Apparently, prior to the Steelers first playoff game in 1975, Myron Cope came up with the “gimmick” of the Terrible Towel to get the fans fired up for the game. Clearly it has worked as the Steelers are in pursuit of their seventh Championship. In 1996 Cope assigned the rights to The Terrible Towel to the Allegheny Valley School System in hopes that its proceeds would benefit the school. The towel has brought in over $2million to the school system. To me, it’s just another example of the greatness of the people of Pittsburgh.
Thank you NY Jets for another great season. Thank you Pittsburgh for the hospitality and good luck to you in the Super Bowl and, most of all, Thank you Myron Cope for providing a Pittsburgh Based intellectual property story for me!