trademark wars

Pittsburgh Steelers Terrible Towel Inflicts Trademark Pain

Posted by Mark J. Miller on December 8, 2011 10:02 AM

The flagship radio station for the Pittsburgh Steelers introduced the Terrible Towel back in 1975 just before the playoffs got started. Before that fateful game, team members and local media weren’t huge fans of the thing. However, by game’s end, a 28-10 win over the Baltimore Colts, a stadium full of towels were being waved frantically about. With a Super Bowl win that year, the Steelers cemented the rally towel into American sports culture.

From the beginning, sales of the towels and any Towel-related items, such as T-shirts, benefited the Allegheny Valley School Foundation, which provides funds to help people with intellectual and developmental difficulties.

Of course, the Towel — like all great brands — has inspired copycats, such as the Titletown Towel that popped up ahead of this year's Super Bowl, and the black-and-gold T-shirts created by Eugene Berry Enterprises LLC that say “The Terrible T-Shirt: A Pittsburgh Original" across the front.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab ruled in favor of the foundation to protect its trademark against Berry Enterprises, which is now banned from producing and selling the shirts.

Since its introduction, Terrible Towels have been to the top of Mount Everest and out to the International Space Station. It has also spawned a whole line of such towels for other teams such as the Minnesota Twins’ Homer Hanky and the Philadelphia Phillies’ Rally Towel.

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