NEW ORLEANS - As the Saints' appearance in their first Super Bowl gets closer, the marketplace is being flooded with Saints merchandise and memorabilia as businesses are looking to cash in on the euphoria, but the NFL is cracking down on the use of their trademarks, including the iconic phrase "Who Dat."
But who really owns "Who Dat"? Does anyone? Who is a “Who Dat?” What is a “Who Dat?” Who owns the phrase, "Who Dat?"
They're all questions Fleurty Girl t-shirt shop owner Lauren Thom is being forced to answer.
“The NFL is not a company that I want to rock the boat with, but I definitely want to look into it further to see what my rights are,” Thom said.
Two weeks ago, Thom got a cease and desist order from the NFL.
“They're telling me not to print anymore shirts and to get rid of the inventory that I have because it says the words 'Who dat' and it has a gold fleur de lis on the shirt,” she said.
But Thom’s t-shirt isn’t the only one the NFL has a problem with. Storyville t-shirt shop also got a cease and desist order for two of their t-shirts.
“I really thought the 'Who Dat' was something that belonged to the people more than to the Saints or to the NFL or anything else,” said Storyville co-owner Josh Harvey.
According to NFL spokesman Dan Masonson, "Any unauthorized use of the Saints colors and other [marks] designed to create the illusion of an affiliation with the Saints is equally a violation of the Saints trademark rights because it allows a third party to 'free ride' by profiting from confusion of the team's fans, who want to show support for the Saints."
Loyola Law School intellectual property professor Ray Arieaux said the ownership of 'Who Dat' may be a gray area.
“Is there some unfair trade taking place because maybe the public does associate that with the Saints? The question is what does the public associate with 'Who Dat,'" Arieaux asked.
And the NFL isn't the only company claiming ownership of the phrase.
Sal and Steve Monistere recorded a version of "When the Saints Go Marching In" in the early eighties and incorporated the "Who Dat" chant into it. Aaron Neville recorded it, and performed with our own Eric Paulsen in an early '80's video version.
Because the song helped create the widespread use of the “Who Dat” chant, the Monisteres and their company, Who Dat, inc., say they own "Who Dat."
“If they really do own it, what they want to do is, we'll come out together and have a shirt that says ‘Defend Who Dat.’ Because it started by the fans and its for the fans,” Thom said.
Some say "Who Dat" came from an 1890's jazz song, but when it comes to modern-day ownership of "Who Dat," Arieaux said the more sources of it, the less likely it is that anyone owns it, and ownership all depends on what people think of when they see or hear "Who Dat."
“Do they think about fans supporting or do they think about, oh, it's something really from the Saints and the NFL? And I don't know the answer to that,” Arieaux said.