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Philadelphia Eagles Seek to Trademark ‘Kelly Green’ (Yes, Really)

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There’s been a bit of buzz coming out of Philadelphia for the past day or so, as media outlets have picked up on the news, first reported by trademark attorney Josh Gerben, that the Eagles have filed a trademark application for the term “Kelly green”:

As Gerben’s tweet notes, this filing is just for the phrase, not for the color itself. As he further explained in this article:

“[The filing] doesn’t allow the Eagles to tell people you can’t use Kelly green to describe a color of another article of clothing, or Kelly green to describe a color that somebody else is using in another context. The only thing this trademark would allow the Eagles to do is, ‘Hey, another [pro football] team can’t use Kelly green to describe a game or theme that might be going on around the game.'”

A few thoughts on this, with the caveat that I am not an attorney or an intellectual property expert:

  • There’s something between silly and gross about a team (or, really, any business) attempting to claim a fairly common color for itself, even if it’s only the name of the color. It just doesn’t sit well.
  • On the other hand, the filing is limited to “professional football,” and no other NFL team wears Kelly green. (Indeed, very few other than the Eagles have ever worn it.) So on some level this trademark, if approved, would just formalize a situation that already exists.
  • On the other-er hand, it’s sort of odd that the Eagles are looking to trademark the name of a fairly common shade of green instead of the more unique midnight green shade that they wear. Whichever shade you prefer, the midnight shade feels much more Eagles-specific.
  • Shouldn’t there be some rule that they can’t move to trademark Kelly if they’re not using it as their primary team color?

The Eagles are scheduled to wear Kelly green® one more time this season, on Nov. 26 against the Bills.

Meanwhile, the Eagles are also reportedly trying to trademark the term “Brotherly Shove,” which is the name for the unusual quarterback sneak execution that they pioneered. Now that’s a phrase worth trademarking — by the person who came up with it. And that person is apparently some random guy on Reddit, not someone connected to the Eagles. Hmmmm.


Can of the Day

This marching soldier with an insecticide pump-spray has got to be the most ridiculous spokescharacter ever! (And if you want the pump-spray, that’s available too.)

Also: “For crawling insects.”

Comments (68)

    This seems unremarkable to me, from an IP standpoint. From a uniform/business standpoint, seeking a trademark for a team-signature color before adopting that color as a primary brand identity seems a very NFL legal thing to do. So the significance for me is to wonder whether this move presages a switch from midnight green to Kelly.

    … presages a switch from midnight green to Kelly.

    (Apologies for the split comment; this early in the morning I tend to forget how unusable the site is on an iPad and I visit and attempt to comment anyway.)

    This was my first thought, too. Why go through this trouble for a color you’ll only wear twice a season?

    I’d be shocked if they go back to kelly green full time. The fans have wanted it for years. Ownership has been pretty clear that midnight green is their preference. And after finally getting a Superbowl with the dark green, they have more ground to keep it.
    I think they are very much enjoying the idea of keeping kelly green as an alternate, and taking advantage of fan desire for it selling the alternate merchandise.
    The funny part is they originally made the switch because the owner’s wife at the time hated kelly green. They are since divorced, not sure if she still holds a share of the team or not.

    She is affiliated with the team’s philanthropic wing but not in team operations. I am kinda surprised the new Mrs Lurie is cool with keeping the former Mrs Lurie’s pet color around.
    As a lifelong Eagles fan, I am all for kelly green full-time. Midnight green is very dated and Nike can’t see to get it right. If the throwbacks are a trial balloon, I would say it has been a raging success. If anything, I am holding off on buying anything until they determine their primary color going forward.

    “Brotherly Shove,” now that registration bothers me. No other team would attempt to market a play under that name, since it’s so cleverly Philly-specific. So this has to be about selling merchandise, and the Eagles didn’t invent and therefore could not claim copyright on the term. So what the Eagles are doing is somewhere between squatting and theft, if we apply the norms of real property to the IP at issue here. Not cool, Eagles. Not cool.

    Actually, the first “brotherly shove” occurred at the 1994 Brickyard 400 when Brett Bodine dumped Geoff Bodine while racing for position at Indianapolis.

    But that’s not how trademark law works. Trademarks are a relationship between some entity (person, company, organization, etc.) and something in commerce (usually goods or services). The person created the phrase first has no rights in said phrase just for coming up with it.

    In re the Can of the Day: Theodor Geisel, before he did business as Dr. Seuss,, was an ad man. He did illustrations and wrote the slogan for Flit:

    Reminds me of when an English futbol team tried to trade their name, which is same as the city in which they play. Like the Yankees trying to TM New York.

    63 years old and grew up with the Eagles wearing Kelly green (adding silver in the 70s). They’ve worn “midnight green” for 30 years and I’ve always disliked it. It’s long past time for them to make a permanent change and hopefully this ridiculous filing is a precursor to that.

    I was thinking the same thing regarding trademarking kelly green vs midnight green. Kelly green has always been a name used in association with that color, regardless of the Eagles use of it. Whereas midnight green isn’t a term/color name you really hear people use to describe a dark shade of green outside of when the Eagles use it for their team color.
    But living in the Philly area, I can say this is really all about the Eagles just wanting to be able to control the popularity of that color when associated with their old uniforms. Having gone to games for years, loads of fans have always worn the old shade, and having be in attendance a few weeks ago when they brought it back, people were ecstatic for it. I think the Eagles just want to restrict local bars or other places from being able to use kelly green to promote their establishments on gamedays. Which is really crazy, because it would sort of be like if in Pittsburgh you weren’t allowed to promote your sportsbar by saying you were having black and gold special day.
    In general this just continues to keep the bad taste the Eagles have always had regarding these kelly green uniforms. They know the fans want and prefer them, and they totally manipulate the base just to sell merchandise, it is clear the ownership has no intension of actually going back full time, but they’ll milk the fan base’s desire for that uniform in every way possible.

    Tell us again how trademarking a phrase that is placing a restriction specifically and only on other pro football teams from using that specific phrase for their uniform color restricts any bars from advertising a “Kelly Green Game Day” for sales

    I would like to trademark the word “bye” so that announcers, schedule makers, commentators, and even people on this site would be required to use it correctly. I will not trademark “off,” “open,” and “idle” as a gesture of goodwill.

    While Notre Dame is primarily navy and gold, they’ve worn “kelly” green jerseys (and pants) on a few occasions.

    Would this mean they (as an “amateur” rather than professional team) couldn’t call their jerseys “kelly green”?

    Someone ought to trademark “black alternate jerseys”, and then prevent teams from using them.

    Just an FYI, I’ll now be trademarking “night”, “if”, and “hungry”, so don’t go too long between meals. My lawyers and I are warning you…

    Can we strike back at these entitled, decadent, all-controlling babymen by trademarking things like “scoreboard”, “schedule”, “next week”, and “yard-line”, and sue/charge them out of existence? Somebody get on that!

    It is surprising that readers haven’t twisted a trademark application restricting other professional football teams from calling the green color they use for uniforms “Kelly green” into claiming that it stops the reader from wearing any kind of green shirt or pants or looking at the color green or. . . Settle down, folks. Don’t be so bitter.

    A certain former reality show host tried to trademark “You’re Fired,” demonstrating how depraved the practice really is.

    I think the big thing that’s being lost in the comments is that Trademarking is typically not done in order to profit from suing people. Teams Trademark all sorts of slogans. For instance, the Lions have “Defend The Den” trademarked. The Packers have “Green. Gold. Together.” trademarked.
    This isn’t an isolated incident at all.

    Yep, slogans are TMed so that they can be used ONLY by “official” partners of a team…
    Saints tried to trademark Who Dat and failed heck they even tried to trademark the fleur-de-lis, no not their own fleur-de-lis logo but all of them, so that local New Orleans vendors would not be able to sell any merch with that design…they failed.

    Of course, the Jets once wore “kelly green” (thanks to owner Sonny Werblin having been born on St. Patrick’s Day (link)) which is really just a medium green only ever-so-slightly brighter than the “Gotham green” they currently wear that Nike came up with in 2019 after failing for seven years to produce jerseys in the correct “hunter green” shade.

    The Eagles’ trademark application seems rather pointless, and will probably be rejected since it’s a common term used to identify a common color. Again, “Gotham green” is something that could conceivably be trademarked; “kelly green,” not so much. That may be why the Jets went with “Stealth black” instead of the more obvious, but more generic, “jet black.”

    Thank you. When I was termite inspector, I could always tell the houses that had been sprayed with DDT. There wasn’t even so much as a spider under them. But damn. What that can calls for is so reckless by modern standards.

    What about the CFL? Saskatchewan doesn’t call their shade kelly green, but it pretty much is, and a LOT of their fan apparel is marketed as kelly green.

    Yes. Also, the Saskatchewan Roughriders are a pro football team that has consistently worn this same shade of green since 1948. Have not deviated to another shade of green as teams like the Jets and Eagles have done.

    This trademark isn’t about the use of the color. It’s the phrase “Kelly Green” for fan apparel.

    The Packers have a similar trademark for “Green. Gold. Together.” Obviously they have never stopped anyone else from using green and gold together. It’s just for apparel.


    I like today’s can!

    Going back to yesterday’s Oilzum can. The one featured was for chainsaw use rather than a motorcycle. A bit of research shows Oilzum sold a variety of oils and lubricants. Most of these were sold at service stations. The image on the can was to reflect the service station attendant who pumped your gas, cleaned your windows etc. before most of us were born. The man often had a white uniform and a policeman type hat. Oilzum used orange as the branding color, hence the orange hat. Interesting to look up!

    That’s funny I did the same thing it was cool to see how their logo changed over the years

    This is a symbolic gesture in order to let Eagles fans know: we, meaning you as fans and us as the team OWN kelly green. No way a judge will allow this to happen. It will open the floodgates for many teams to claim any generic color name conceivable. Now if the Eagles wanted to name their retrp green Eagles green and then deposit it they might have a chance but not a generic name like kelly green. Harvard are nicknamed the Crimson and they can trademark the font but not the name of the color. On the other hand, that CFL team named the RedBlack…no, it must be the wordmark font only that they can protect.

    Edit – “Now that’s a phrase work trademarking.” Did you mean – “Now that’s a phrase worth trademarking.”

    What I would imagine this means is the Kelly Green jerseys will now continue to be the alternate jersey from year to year.

    Last year they updated the EAGLES wordmark but didnt add it to the midnight jersey.

    My sense is that they didnt update the wordmark on the jersey because they plan to refresh the midnight jersey in 2024. After all, it hasn’t had a refresh since its debut in 1996, and personally I think it looks dated. I’d love to see them change the number/NOB font to something between a custom font that picks up some style from the new wordmark, but also doesnt go too far from a traditional block style.

    *note: I’m an Eagles fan

    Have negligible knowledge of both U.S. trademark law and the origin of the name “kelly green”. Other questions besides the abandonment of the Eagle use of the colour and it not being the green of their primary colours come to mind.

    What is the origin of “kelly green”? It appears to predate the Eagle’s use of the name. Were others sports teams using the term prior to them or more consistently than them?

    Has “kelly green” become common enough outside the uniform world? How ubiquitous is the term? Do people make references to “kelly green” on St. Patrick’s Day? Maybe it isn’t a commonly referred to shade on the scale of forest, emerald or lime green, but could you imagine a team trying to trademark either of those? (Unfortunately, with the way large corporatizations try to operate I can).

    All in all, I hope their trademark application gets denied but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if it passes.

    It’s just days before the 34th anniversary of when my ambivalence towards the Eagles became all-out hatred. This latest bit of Eagles news just reinforces my feelings towards them.

    LeBron tried to trademark “Taco Tuesday”, a phrase restaurants have been using for years. Guessing he needed a little more cash on hand and figured, why not try?

    Sooooooo….if your name is Kelly Green do you have any say so in this here TM?

    It says right there in the trademark application: “entertainment services in the nature of professional football games.”

    I’m not defending the Eagles. But let’s critique what’s actually happening, not hypotheticals that have no relation to what’s happening.

    I wonder how many people were named Kelly Green at birth. Does this affect them? What about the temp agency Kelly Services, who of course use Kelly green in their logo? link
    Where does the madness end?!

    It says right there in the trademark application: “entertainment services in the nature of professional football games.”

    I’m not defending the Eagles. But let’s critique what’s actually happening, not hypotheticals that have no relation to what’s happening.

    It literally States in every site that I’ve been to that it is named after traditional Irish families named Kelly…
    This would have been like Bob Ross trying to trademark Van Dyke brown

    I see your point Paul… just wondering why they didn’t just make up a new name “Eagle green” “Philly thing green”
    it can still be the same shade…
    Or is that the part where we just rip them apart for trying to rename Kelly Green LOL

    T-Mobile was in the news 4 years ago, and even before that trademarking the color “Magenta” or Pantone Rhodamine-Red-U. Essentially it’s pink, named Magenta, which is odd looking at my print cartridges as the Red one is labeled “Magenta”.



    Friends fans be like, “fine, we’ll just call our color ‘kelly greep’ then.”

    I remember Eastbay selling uniforms and accessories in many colors, including kelly green. New Era has many MLB caps available in kelly green right now (Yankees, Marlins, SF Giants, BoSox, etc.) and Oakland A’s are selling replicas listed as kelly green (though the shade looks like it differs a bit).

    If Taco Tuesday TM got overturned, then this should not be approved, IMO. Now if they wanted to trademark Philadelphia Eagles kelly green, Philadelphia Eagles’ kelly green and/or NFL Philadelphia Eagles kelly green then that’s fine by me.

    Huh! Kelly Green has been a color name/standard in the sporting goods industry from the beginning. When the Eagles started wearing green in 1935, it’s not like they had a special color formulated. They went to a supplier and took the same color as every other team in light green. Same as Notre Dame in the 20s and same as Green Bay that same year. I’d bet the knitting company that made the shirt had the color listed as Kelly in their catalog.

    In fact, and this would be a good Substack idea for Paul, The Sporting Goods Manufactures’ Association (SGMA) came together at one point and created a standard for all the basic athletic colors. Kelly is most definitely on the list. Absurd!

    (Got to the post late, hope I didn’t miss the fun!)

    I wonder if it’s something like the Oilers Trade Dress when the NFL sent a cease and desist letter to the Houston Cougars on Oct. 30:
    “The letter, according to the Chronicle, said the NFL and the Titans were “disappointed to learn that the Houston Cougars made unauthorized use of the Oilers Trade Dress in a manner that is likely to cause consumers to believe that the Houston Cougars are associated with, or are an authorized licensee of, the NFL and the Titans.” “

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