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Texas A&M tackles double amputee over '12th Man' football trademark

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN Texas (Reuters) - Texas A&M University and a band of four Buffalo Bills football fans led by a double amputee are in a fight over the use of the school's "12th Man" trademark, with the fans accusing the school of heavy handed tactics to protect its copyright.

The university said it is being fair and amicable in protecting a trademark that is a part of school history.

The fans trying to keep the Bills in Buffalo launched a group called "12thManThunder.com." Texas A&M drew up a cease and desist letter telling them to drop all references to the slogan that many sports fans see as synonymous with strong crowd support.

"We are doing everything we can do in our power and that doesn't seem good enough for them," said truck driver Charles Pellien, one of the co-founders of the group started by Charles Sonntag as a way to help repair his spirits after his leg was amputated in March.

The group has changed its name to BillsFansThunder.com, but says it is being harassed for not being quick enough in taking down posters and material that could infringe on the trademark.

"This is way overboard," Pellien said.

Sonntag, who also had his arm amputated, has had difficulty meeting some of the university's requests due to his limited physical capabilities and meager income, his friends said.

Emails obtained by Reuters said attorneys for the university called on the group to turn over "domain names, websites, twitter handles, Facebook pages, business names, trade names or other uses of any form of the name and mark 12TH MAN to Texas A&M University."

One letter from the Wong Cabello law firm in Houston said Texas A&M can turn to the courts to seek damages for the infringement of its trademark.

John Cain, the attorney listed on the letter, declined to discuss its content.

"Texas A&M has not threatened a lawsuit and is not suing anybody," said Shane Hinckley, a university spokesman. "Texas A&M through its standard operating procedures sends out cease and desist letters to parties who are using our '12th Man' trademark and asks them to cease and desist use."

Hinckley said the university has dealt with, or is still dealing with, 21 incidents of misuse just since January.

"We try to resolve all disputes amicably," he said.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz. Editing by Andre Grenon)

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