‘Dawg Pound’ Decision Provides Guidance for Fan Group-Related Trademarks

Steve M. McKelvey

The emphasis on licensing as a source of revenue for sport organizations, coupled with the creativity of sport marketers and their fans, serves to highlight the importance of securing trademark protection for unique slogans and nicknames that emerge in connection with a particular sport organization. Perhaps one of the most well-known of these team-related fan groups is the Cleveland Browns’ “Dawg Pound,” a phrase used since the early 1980s to describe the enthusiastic Browns fans who dressed up (and woofed) like dogs. Members of the “Dawg Pound” sat together in the bleachers of the old Municipal Stadium, and today sit together in the east end zone of the new Cleveland Browns stadium. Ownership of the phrase “Dawg Pound,” as well as the issue of trademark abandonment, was at the heart of a lawsuit recently decided in federal district court for the Southern District of New York in February 2006 (Hawaii-Pacific Apparel Group, Inc. v. Cleveland Browns Football Company LLC, 2006).