Following founder Josh Gerben’s finding that the Buffalo Bills filed two trademark applications for “BILLS MAFIA,” the NFL team faced significant backlash from fans on social media. The “BILLS MAFIA” phrase was created by and for the community, so many fans saw the team’s move to trademark the term as profiting off a phrase they didn’t create.
Josh Gerben provided insight on the “BILLS MAFIA” trademark filings will affect merchandise and the fanbase:
“[I] understand the legal reasons for the Bills’ filing, but it’s still sensitive from a public relations perspective.”
“It’s not uncommon for fans of a team to adopt a nickname for themselves. What’s unusual is that it gets so large that there’s a huge merchandise play behind it.”
“It doesn’t surprise [me] that Reid or the other Bills Mafia co-founders hadn’t already tried to trademark the term. There would have been a problem in the sense that he would need to use the Buffalo Bills name as part of his trademark. And that would infringe on the Bills’ intellectual property rights.”
“A typical trademark registration process takes about eight to 10 months to complete. It will be four months before it’s reviewed by a government examiner, after which there will be a 30-day window when anyone could express opposition to the application.”
“But the Bills don’t have to wait until the process is over to start putting out “Bills Mafia” merchandise. There’s plenty of companies out there that sell products without a trademark ever filed, let alone registered.”
Source: Gylnn, Matt. “‘It’s who we are’: Bills apply for trademark for ‘Bills Mafia'”. BuffaloNews.com. 16 Oct 2020.