University Park, Pa- Penn State applied for a trademark to the nickname “Happy Valley”, specifically for shirts and hats.
At the moment, there’s no guarantee Penn State will be granted the trademark. To gain the trademark, the United States Patent and Trademark office must approve PSU’s application.
With approval comes different levels of trademarking which can impact the overall power of a trademark.
Penn State is applying for the highest level…. but the legal expert WTAJ spoke with says it may be unlikely they’ll receive the trademark registration status they’re seeking.
The previous holder of the “Happy Valley” trademark on T-shirts and various items was Nittany Embroidery & Digitizing. They gained the trademark in 2012, but have since gone out of business and canceled the trademark in December, 2018.
(On a side note: WTAJ made attempts to contact the original owners to ask why they allowed the trademark to be canceled, but thus far were unsuccessful in gathering a response.)
When Nittany Embroidery & Digitizing applied for the trademark in 2011, they applied for a “principal trademark”, the highest level of trademarking which basically gives an entity complete control of the trademark.
Instead, the patent office granted a lesser “supplemental” trademark citing that Happy Valley is recognized as a place rather than a particular organization.
Penn State also applied for a principal trademark, and could instead receive a supplemental trademark for the same reason.
A supplemental trademark would still give PSU the right to charge businesses for use of the trademark…or limit sales of “Happy Valley” apparel.
“Supplemental or not, they’re gonna say: Just because the government says we’re supplemental doesn’t mean anything…. we still own trademark rights,” said Charles Riddle, Owner and Attorney for Esquiretrademarks.com.
But there are limitations that come with a supplemental trademark.
“The number one thing is that it requires more effort to prove in court that you own rights…. Also, which is huge these days, is that Amazon.com will not accept a supplemental trademark,” Riddle said.
This means Penn State could not sell “Happy Valley” apparel on Amazon… and other businesses may still be able to sell similar products.
After five years of holding the supplemental trademark, Penn State could apply for a principal trademark again.
At that time, in order to receive approval on the principal trademark, PSU may have to prove that the nickname “Happy Valley” only refers to Penn State and not the greater State College area.
Charles Riddle, Esq. from Esquiretrademarks.com authored an article on why he feels Penn State’s application for the “Happy Valley” trademark will be denied.
Below is a link to that article: