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The PHILLY SPECIAL Isn’t So Special

Posted in Branding

Well, it is the end of February and the Super Bowl hangover in Minneapolis might finally be over. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t still time to analyze trademarks related to the Big Game. Much ado was made about the Eagles’ “Philly Special” trick play.  When a catch phrase is born, it is often followed by trademark filings by opportunistic individuals or those teams, businesses, or celebrities associated with the mark in the first place.  Typically these filings are for apparel items and other novelty items like we saw with the Minneapolis Miracle.

PHILLY SPECIAL is a little “special” in this case because, while there were filings by the Philadelphia Eagles and individuals (presumably, Eagles fans) from Texas to New Jersey to Florida for the mark for apparel and novelty items, the historic Yuengling brewery also filed for PHILLY SPECIAL for use in connection with beer.  They even seemed to have a marketing strategy forming behind it and, well, Yuengling’s logo also incorporates an eagle.  A natural fit.  If you aren’t familiar with Yuengling, it’s a brewery based in Pottsville, Pennsylvania and the oldest operating brewery in the U.S.  It also has a bit of a cult following throughout the East Coast – you know, where there are Patriots fans still reeling from a Super Bowl loss, Ravens fans, and most importantly that other NFL team in Pittsburgh and its Steeler Nation of fans.

With such a wide range of loyal drinkers, this trademark filing associating such an iconic brand with a team seems like an errant throw.  Yuengling expressly abandoned the application last week citing a desire to “allow the Eagles to have full, unfettered access to all rights and uses of the term ‘Philly Special.’”  While it’s unclear whether the Eagles asked Yuengling to withdraw the application (although I would be willing to bet that they did), the audible was probably the right call.

Plus, given certain factions of the Eagles fan base, who wants to have a Philly Special hurled at them?  That honor should only be reserved for Nick Foles with an actual football.