ForwardProgress

"Crazy" Conspiracies 2: The Steelers Don't Own Their Logo

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Considering how many responses and how much heated debate my Nike making adidas triple-striped socks for the Patriots road uniforms post got, I think I'm going to make a weekly post here in the forum dedicated to one of my many "tin foil hat" sports uniform and / or logo conspiracy theories.

 

Today's theory is about how neither the Pittsburgh Steelers nor the NFL own any copyright or trademark rights in regards to the Steelers' logo.

 

Instead of just making "outrageous" claims like with the Patriots' three-stripe socks thread and how they are at least a signature adidas design element if not a registered trademark that Nike has continued to manufacture, today I am backing everything up with evidence.

 

Now, I know what you're thinking:  how can the Steelers and / or the NFL not own the Steelers' logo when they have been using that logo and selling merchandise with that logo on it since the 60's?

 

Well it all comes down to the official origin story of the logo that I found on steelers.com:

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The Steelers logo is based on the Steelmark logo belonging to the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI). The Steelmark logo was created by U.S. Steel Corp. (now known as USX Corp.) and in 1962 Cleveland's Republic Steel suggested to the Steelers that they use the Steelmark as a helmet logo.  [Poster note:  I'm sure Pittsburgh fans love the fact that their logo came from Cleveland LOL!!! -ForwardProgress]  The Steelmark logo was used as part of a major marketing campaign to educate consumers about how important steel is in our daily lives. It was used in print, radio, [Poster note: How the heck do you use a logo in a radio ad??? -ForwardProgress] and television ads as well as on labels for all steel products, from steel tanks to tricycles to filing cabinets.

 

The 1962 Steelers, the first Steelers team to use the Steelmark as a helmet logo, finished 9-5 and became the winningest team in franchise history to date. The team finished second in the Eastern Conference and qualified for the Playoff Bowl. They wanted to do something special for their first postseason game, so they changed the color of their helmets from gold to black, which helped to highlight the new logo on the helmets.

 

Because of the interest generated by having the logo on only one side of their helmets and because of their team's new success, the Steelers decided to leave it that way permanently.  However, in 1963, U.S. Steel turned over the Steelmark program to the AISI, where it came to represent the steel industry as a whole.  The Steelers had to petition the AISI in order to change the word "Steel" inside the Steelmark to "Steelers" before the logo was complete.

 

So that's the story, straight from the horse's mouth.

 

So my theory, that neither the Steelers nor the NFL own the rights to the Steelers logo, has some solid evidence to back it up because it seems like without a shadow of a doubt that the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) still owns the logo even after the letters "ers" were added to it and other extremely minor adjustments were made.  It is my theory that these changes weren't dramatic enough to allow the Steelers or NFL to copyright or trademark the logo for themselves. This is where people chime in with the "percentage different" defense, where an "original" logo design only has to be 10%, 20%, 30% (the percentage is always different) different than the one it is based on to be considered a new logo design that can be registered as a trademark.  According to everything I've read about this, this is a huge myth.  So the Steelers' minor aesthetic adjustments to the Steelmark are absolutely not enough for them to be able to trademark the logo for themselves.

 

So it makes me very curious what kind of royalties arrangement the NFL and the Steelers have with AISI when it comes to everything the NFL and Steelers make money off of via use of the logo.  I would guess it covers TV revenue, merchandising, appearances in video games and other media...  the sky's the limit!  Makes you wonder how much of a percentage of their income AISI makes off the Steelers' use of the Steelmark as their logo.  Hmmmm...

 

In case you don't believe everything you've read so far, take a look at the logo below:

 

f8a30737579b1e5e0662462c5847ab2d.png

 

That is the logo of Club Deportivo Huachipato, a Chilean soccer team.  Obviously if the Steelers really owned their logo, they'd sue the crap out of these guys to stop them from using it.

 

But this hasn't happened.

 

Why?  Because the Steelers don't own their own logo and AISI does!  AISI is cool with this Chilean team using the Steelmark because of the following info taken from Wikipedia:

Quote

Their nickname is "Los Acereros", which is Spanish for "the Steelers." The club were originated from the local steel manufacturer (Compañia de Aceros del Pacífico, CAP) which is nowadays one of the team's main sponsors. The logo was designed as an homage to the origins of the club as a team representing the steel workers of the factory.

 

Therefore the inclusion of the Steelmark (notice I didn't say Steelers' logo?) helps promote the steel industry, the very same reason why the creators of the logo let the Steelers put it on their helmets in the first place back in 1962.

 

So gentlemen, tell me this: have I proven this theory to be true, or is it still just a "crazy" conspiracy?  Or was all this already common knowledge and I just wasted my time trying to prove something that everybody already knew?

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All I have to say is that, as unpopular as it might be, I've never been a big fan of the Steelers logo. As to if they actually own the trademark or not, it's hard to say... It's not the Steelmark, but it's probably not different enough to qualify on its own merits, either. But I would imagine the NFL has enough lawyers these days that they'd win any copyright suit brought against them.

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I think the original Steel mark belongs to AISI, but the Steelers variation belongs to the Steelers and NFL Properties. If you look at their logo slick, there is no mention of any marks belonging to anybody other than the NFL/NFL Properties/Steelers

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I've always taken it that they had permission to use the logo, but that the mark itself (even with the change to Steelers instead of Steel) isn't theirs. What type of arrangement they have, I do not know. But, my guess is the NFL never would've gone through letting NFL Properties (their subsidiary) have anything to do with the logo without it in writing. And if a royalty was required, the NFL would've forced them to adopt a new logo or abandon the logo and use a helmet logo (a la Browns).

 

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I was under the impression that they owned the mark that said "Steelers", so long as they never changed it further nor reverted back to just "Steel", since it's essentially free advertisement for the steel industry, which also could explain why they never flipped the logo to go on the left side

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It would make a lot of sense that the Steelers bought the "ers" logo from AISI for some ridiculous sum of money and own it outright. An issue with the other owner deciding to pull the logo and part ways would be catastrophic and I can't imagine the NFL allowing the possibility.

 

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if that was why they changed to the "ers" logo, to officially separate the two, allow the Steel industry to have their logo and the team to have their own.

 

That could also explain why they don't throwback to the old logo EVER.

 

 

Steelers_1962Helmet.jpg0005595_pittsburgh-steelers-replica-mini

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Actually, the US Steel Corporation did once file a copyright infringement claim against the Steelers. It was battled for years in court, and they finally came to a compromise. The US Steel Corporation got the logo back from the Steelers, but they only got to keep the logos form one side of the helmet. Neither side is really happy with the current arrangement. 

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Garbage logo to begin with...

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2 hours ago, Bucfan56 said:

Actually, the US Steel Corporation did once file a copyright infringement claim against the Steelers. It was battled for years in court, and they finally came to a compromise. The US Steel Corporation got the logo back from the Steelers, but they only got to keep the logos form one side of the helmet. Neither side is really happy with the current arrangement. 

 

My trolling meter just pegged.  Well done.

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At least this one is easily disproved.  We can end this thread early.

 

We can't link directly to the United States Patent and Trademark site, but here's a screenshot showing that Pittsburgh Steelers Sports Inc. does indeed own the trademark on their helmet logo.

 

SteelersTrademark.jpg

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