Spirit of the Game trademarked by UPA!

I just found out, to my great horror, that the UPA has trademarked the phrase “Spirit of the Game”. This must be the greatest oxymoron in Ultimate history!
Discraft resellers have already been told that they can not put the phrase “Spirit of the Game” on discs unless they have approval from the UPA. That is insane! Is this Ultimate? Is this the Spirit of the Game?
I have asked the UPA for clarification but so far they have failed to respond to my emails. Is this patent trademark worldwide? Can you actually do this? Take a phrase that has been used since the beginning of the sport and trademark it? What about the name Ultimate? Is the next step to trademark our game and we all pay the UPA for playing it? Or lets trademark the stall count: stall one™… stall two™… stall three™…
I can’t believe this. I am shocked!

UPDATE: reponse from Sandie Hammerly (Executive Director UPA)

The Ultimate Players Association does own the US trademark registration on the mark “Spirit of the Game” (since 1997), as well as SOTG, Ultimate Players Association and UPA.
While I was not a part of the UPA when this process was started, I can assure you that the organization’s goal in doing this was not to keep players and organizers from using the marks, but to protect our sport and players from commercial entities and business who might acquire the mark and prevent us from using it unless a licensing fee was paid…or possibly not at all.
When organizers have asked us for permission to use the mark, to the best of my knowledge, we have never said no.


I think there are 2 ways of getting it. First, as an ultimate player come to this sport for spirit, play and fun, I am pretty shocked of it and will never give a cent to upa because I wrote this on a jersey or on a disc, even if it would mean not to do discraft disc anymore. As said in a previous post, next step would be to trademark any of our specific playing language and paying a new forfeit to any tournament because we gonna say “stall one” or “hammer”?
Second, I can somewhere understand this point of view. Because we are in a worldwide market with its rules and especially “first arrived, first served” as we can say in France, it seems, to me, to be a way of protecting our specificity from external economic attack. What would be the situation if a big brand (like nike or other) will trademark this kind of expression and would legitimately ask for royalties with all their lawyers behind. We all know that it is not for tomorrow, but probably sooner in US than in Europe.
I will not be longer to give my opinion, but I think that it is enough unequivocal.
The problem that I have though is that UPA has already asked to Discraft (if true) to warn them if any disc production with Spirit of the Game. The point of it would be to protect from external abuse, not internal. And that makes me doubtful about UPA will..
Hope this will not worsen.
Never forget the spirit of the game and keep playing…
See ya
French player

  • It would be worth using care with your choice of words. A patent is a very different beast to a trademark. Clearly in this case, a trademark is involved.
    What is your source of this?
    It does sound like an evil, nasty thing to do. One might hope that it is done to prevent abuse of the phrase rather than to control it, but some more needs to be found out, methinks. 🙂
    As for opposing the trademark, there are probably legal courses of action available, and I humbly suggest getting to know the nuances of the law at least a little more before reacting.
    I am not a lawyer, nor associated with the UPA or the USA for that matter.

  • From Rog’s email to Aus-Ultimate:
    Out of interest, a quick search of the USPTO database shows that this has been the case since 1999.
    Has anyone got a more reliable source of background information than someone who “just found out”?
    – Rog
    Goods and Services IC 042. US 100 101. G & S: Association services, namely, promoting interest in a competitive field sport involving tossing a flying disc in the United States and throughout the world and promoting the interest of players of the sport in the United States and throughout the world. FIRST USE: 19701200. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19701200 Mark Drawing Code (1) TYPED DRAWING Design Search Code Serial Number 75391378 Filing Date November 17, 1997 Current Filing Basis 1A Original Filing Basis 1A Published for Opposition April 27, 1999 Registration Number 2262319 Registration Date July 20, 1999 Owner (REGISTRANT) Ultimate Players Association NONPROFIT CORPORATION COLORADO Side Suite, 741 Pearl Street Boulder COLORADO 80302 Attorney of Record STEVEN B SMITH Type of Mark SERVICE MARK Register PRINCIPAL Affidavit Text SECT 15. SECT 8 (6-YR).
    Live/Dead Indicator LIVE

  • Indeed, it’s not new: the first thing I found was an old RSD thread
    Agreed that it could be used in a negative context, but why are the UPA purportedly starting now? And, playing devil’s advocate, do they not have every right to do so if the original ruleset was ‘theirs’, and that’s where Spirit was first defined?

  • Note the ‘if’. My history isn’t perfect: I assumed that the Colombia highschool rules Hellring, Hines & Silver wrote made their way to the UPA before WFDF. If I’m wrong, someone else can clarify the possible effect on the TM. As we’ve already clarified, it isn’t a patent, so does ‘prior art’ come into play?

  • Hey! I just trademarked the word Ultimate™! Stop abusing it, or I am gonna sue you all!
    Well, It’s true that a trademark is not so strong as a patent, but trademarking the Spirit Of The Game™ is non-sense if you wanna keep the Spirit™ up. It’s a kind of contradiction in terms, like making peace with a war. And the United States are quite used to this kind of paradoxes. Hope you got the irony.

  • What a load of fuss about nothing.
    Other than perhaps WFDF I can’t think of anyone better than the UPA (a non-profit players association) to safeguard the phrase from being hijacked by commercial use.
    Would you rather Wham-O corporation or Gaia registered it?
    Does anyone honestly think the UPA would ever abuse this trademark at the expense of Ultimate players?

  • > What a load of fuss about nothing.
    Hmmm… already we have to ask the UPA permission to put SOTG on Discraft discs. What is next? Will BULA run into trouble when we launch the new SOTG system and don’t ask for permission to use the name?
    Remember, the UPA is the organization that started with observers. Now observers and trade marks. Next year…?
    Why is there a need to trademark the SOTG?

  • I think it could still be a good thing.
    It would only take an approval email from UPA to allow use of the term on discs or whatever to go ahead. Might be a mild inconvenience but its not draconian.
    What if a manufacturer or even, dare I say it, a *team* that is not considered a worthy custodian of the phrase requested to use it? Again, who better than the UPA to decide whether they should or not?
    > Why is there a need to trademark the SOTG?
    Answer: To stop someone you/we don’t like from trademarking it.

  • We recently made some discs that said ‘Spirit of the Game’ for some UK awards and we were told by discraft about this then. We gave them the go ahead to print it ( without getting permission ). I expect the World Police at the door any moment. I regret nothing.

  • > Again, who better than the UPA to decide whether they should or not?
    May I remind you that Ultimate is a global sport. The UPA jurisdiction is the US and should not be involved in other regions.
    IF anyone would have the right to trademarh the Spirit of the game is should be the WFDF, not UPA.

  • It does not look pretty, but i can be convinced that, if there is not a trademark, someone else more evil might have got it.
    Perhaps we should also trademark: “Beach Ultimate”, “Chilly O”, “Greatest”, “3 pint challenge” etc?
    You can not patent something that is commonly known. If someone does you can contest the patend by demonstrating so. Does it work in the same way for tarde marks?
    If the trademark is registered in the States, Can I print/sell a disc with the trademarked phrase in another country?
    Is there any lawyer around or someone who knows for sure?

  • It should be the case that nobody could TM these phrases and stop them continuing to be used in an existing context. However it’s probably as well to play it safe, because we don’t have the resources to take on a big corporation.
    We only have to consider what happened with “Frisbee” to know the danger.

  • if the upa move is a “benign” defense from potential external entities, wd a low-profile stance (eg no need to acknowledge TM status for actual players, teams etc when citing the phrase) be possible? If so, Steve’s approach (see above) looks like the right one (ie don’t even bother to ask).
    If sotg cd be under threat from the speculators, why isn’t “ultimate” itself seen as being at risk? And were the threat real, surely a simple de facto mass violation by all the “Ultimate community” wd work) Indeed, it’s still surprising it was possible to trademark it at all: names of sports obviously cannot be up for grabs (?), so nor can inherent principles/”rules” of those sports (such as sotg). The weirdness of the whole thing suggests the only acceptable solution is that the TM status shd become a dead letter.
    Anyway, Patrick’s right: if sotg is anyone’s “property”, it shd belong to the wfdf, not the upa.

  • yo BULA bloggers!
    Does this mean I am going to have to pay the UPA every time someone sends me an email at my new address?
    ([email protected])
    I hope the UPA will be a good protector of the SOTG name, but judging by the newer players (not to mention the Elite teams), there is reason to worry.
    I was busy having brain surgery for Nationals in 05, but in 04 the # of fouls in the finals was ridiculous.
    They may as well have made a rule that said “Don’t bother trying to break the mark, just call foul now and save some time, ’cause you gonna get hammered”
    While imho there is no reason SOTG and hard-nosed play cannot be compatible, intentional fouling like that is completely wrong. Players who cannot compete without fouling should go play another sport where personal responsibility are not required.
    as for the new players coming ito the game, they are very athletic but lack a certain, shall we say, ‘ability to paaarty’!? no post game cheers, no wild parties, no stupid games, sheesh, might as well be playing frisbee football.
    so there.

  • here in germany (whole europe?), betandwin.com launched a new tv commercial, and among other things, they do use the following slogan: “in the spirit of the game”.
    that is interesting

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