NFL Settles Legal Dispute Over Who Dat? Chant

By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN | February 3, 2012

The NFL and a Louisiana recording company have resolved their legal dispute over merchandising rights to the “Who Dat?” chant, a popular refrain of New Orleans Saints fans.

A federal judge agreed Tuesday to dismiss claims that Who Dat? Inc. and the NFL filed against each other after the Saints’ Super Bowl victory in 2010.

The company, which recorded a song in 1983 that used the cheer, had accused the NFL of infringing on its trademark of the phrase.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy says the settlement calls for the league, the Saints and the company to make co-branded merchandise available to fans.

The agreement doesn’t resolve other claims that Who Dat? Inc. filed against several T-shirt shops over alleged trademark violations. A trial for the remaining claims is scheduled to start in April.

Lawyers for the T-shirt shop owners have asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to throw out the claims against them.

“They don’t even have the pretense of a valid trademark argument,” Ernest Svenson, a lawyer for the Fleurty Girl stores in New Orleans, said of Who Dat Inc. “They’re just bullies.”

Attorneys for Who Dat? Inc., owned by brothers Sal and Steve Monistere, didn’t immediately respond to calls seeking comment.

The Monisteres, who have described themselves as founding members of the “Who Dat Nation,” claimed they trademarked and nurtured the phrase after they enlisted several Saints players to chant it on a recording of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” sung by Aaron Neville.

In the days leading up to the 2010 Super Bowl, the NFL sent out a batch of cease-and-desist letters demanding T-shirt makers stop selling “Who Dat?” merchandise. But the NFL backed down after state officials challenged the league’s trademark infringement claims.

Mark Andews, a lawyer for Storyville Apparel, said the settlement surprised and disappointed his client and other T-shirt sellers. The NFL had promised to help defend them against Who Dat? Inc’s claims and “do the heavy lifting” in preparing for a trial, Andrews added.

“It pulls the rug out from under us,” he said.

The T-shirt sellers’ attorneys say Who Dat? Inc. lost whatever trademark rights it may have had years before the Saints won the Super Bowl. They argue “Who Dat?” has been a slogan in the public domain for decades and can’t be trademarked.

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