Who dat say dey own dat phrase?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 30, 2010

Can anyone say Who Dat?

Oops, you aren’t supposed to. You are infringing on the NFL’s ownership rights.

Or so the gods of the National Football League say.

Who Dat.

The NFL, which sent out cease and desist orders to stores selling Who Dat merchandise earlier this week, claims to own the phrase. Of course we all take issue with that, and I doubt anyone stops using the phrase without giving the NFL its fare share of revenue.

According to published reports, the New Orleans Saints Limited Partnership registered Who Dat as a trademark with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office in 1988, so the NFL believes anyone using it without permission is breaking state and federal law.

But those same reports say Steve Monistere of First Take Studios, who recorded the Who Dat that appears over the song “When the Saints Go Marching In,” registered the trademark in 1983 and created a company, WhoDat Inc.

And its also been reported St. Augustine High School used the phrase before that, and it was even used in minstrel shows in the 1800s.

In a statement released Thursday by WhoDat Inc., Monistere and his brother, Sal, said their company has registered the “WhoDat?” trademark in various categories.

According to the statement, “Who Dat? Inc. has never claimed to ‘own’ the word WHO, or the word DAT. They have never claimed to be the first to have uttered those words. They know about the minstrels, the vaudeville acts, the high school and college uses. Their first-usage claim is simply that what THEY did – something that no one else has done or can lay claim to – is simply this: They made it popular, and they have continued to market it, to nurture it, to allow various uses to the local business in New Orleans without harassing them. By doing all of this, we created a secondary meaning of Who Dat.”

The statement says the company has worked with the Saints in the past and the Saints recognize the company holds the rights on the trademark. It also stresses it is the NFL, not the Saints, trying to claim the phrase.

So who owns the rights to Who Dat?

Who cares! The Monisteres apparently believe its for all Saints fans to enjoy.

The NFL sure didn’t care before the Saints started winning. But in the end it all comes down to money, and now that we are all spending lots of it on Saints merchandise, that organization wants its share, too.

So, is the term Super Bowl trademarked? We’re selling newspapers with those words in them. Are we infringing on copyright laws or trademark issues?

What about the word Geaux? Do we have to worry about the Southeastern Conference coming in and laying claim to that? We know the heads of the SEC are all about the money, especially lately.

Does the cheese in Green Bay, Wisc., have an extra NFL surcharge on it? Do the Cleveland Browns fans who chant “Woof! Woof!” have to pay to chant it?

Does the Schwegmann family get a cut every time your mama says she’s going “to make groceries?”

I think not.

The NFL powers that be should have more on their minds than messing with Saints fans.

As one of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, said: “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

Can I get a Who Dat?

Sandy Cunningham is publisher of L’Observateur. She can be reached at sandy.cunningham@ wickcommunications.com.