As soon as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won Super Bowl 55, a new regional nickname took hold.
The city of Tampa tweeted it. So did Rep. Charlie Crist, retired NBA star Vince Carter, the Lightning’s Pat Maroon and the Rays’ Austin Meadows.
“CHAMPA BAY !!!!” tweeted Lightning captain Steven Stamkos.
With the Bucs winning the Super Bowl, the Lightning winning the Stanley Cup and the Rays reaching the World Series, “Champa Bay” does have a nice ring. And a few enterprising fans are hoping to make a buck off it.
Three trademark applications for the phrase “Champa Bay” have been filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office — all of them from local fans, and all since this unprecedented local sports run began last fall.
Securing a trademark on a phrase will take months, and may be tricky to enforce, depending on how it’s used, said Tampa intellectual property lawyer Thomas Stanton. But there is value in seeking one.
Bucs fans may recall that Tom Brady tried to trademark the phrases “Tompa Bay” and “Tampa Brady” after signing with the team last spring. So far, neither trademark has officially been granted.
Even “Champa Bay” has been through the trademark ringer. A month after the Bucs won their first Super Bowl in 2003, a man named Ron Boucher paid $670 to trademark the phrase, complete with a snazzy, professional-looking logo. He held the trademark until 2012, when according to federal records, he failed to file paperwork to keep it going.
Only during this recent championship run did Boucher, 75, of Largo, realize he no longer held the Champa Bay trademark. To his knowledge, he’s the only one who still wears his shirts.
“Of course, I wish I had it now,” he said.
In his place, other fans are trying to claim Champa Bay for themselves. Among the first was Bucs fan Patrick Hanlon, 52, of South Tampa.
“The first,” he corrects with a laugh. “I’m the first in line.”
Hanlon, who works in health care administration, got the idea from a friend after the Lightning reached the Stanley Cup finals — but before they’d won — and filed his application in late September.
Among other potential uses, Hanlon’s application notes Champa Bay could be a good brand for an “alcoholic beverage produced from a brewed malt base with natural flavors” — heady thinking in a town full of craft breweries, although Hanlon thinks it would make a better hard seltzer.
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“Gotta be honest: I haven’t put a lot of thought into it,” he laughed.
Other applicants have.
In October, a few weeks after Hanlon filed his trademark application, St. Petersburg’s Cody DeWitt and a group of friends registered a company called Champa Bay LLC with the state of Florida. Their effort is more organized — DeWitt is already selling Champa Bay merchandise on champa-bay.com, and he owns @champabay accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
DeWitt said his group came up with the idea during the Lightning’s Stanley Cup run, but it got a little more real when the Rays made the World Series. They scored tickets and flew to Texas, wearing Champa Bay gear in the stands, hoping to end up on camera.
“It’s been a passion project for a bunch of local kids from Tampa Bay,” DeWitt said. “We’re trying to use this moment as an opportunity to launch this brand that should be a statement for what this area can become. We don’t want to just be here and gone tomorrow, but use this as an opportunity to really make a statement and launch a lifestyle brand that is here to stay.”
The bad news: DeWitt’s application wasn’t filed until late December, which Stanton said puts his claim to the trademark at a disadvantage.
“There’s no legal link between your LLC or your corporation name, and your brand you go to market with,” Stanton said.
A third application was filed in October by Lou Tutko, a Rays, Lightning and Buffalo Bills fan (the Bucs are his second-favorite team) from Palm Harbor. Reached by phone, he said he’d been advised not to say much about his application, only that he’s aware of the others but is still pressing forward.
Settling trademark applications typically take months, Stanton said, which could pose a problem. Tampa Bay may be Champa Bay today, but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office might not reach a decision until next year, long after Tampa Bay’s title run.
Although who knows? At that point, Champa Bay’s streak might still be going.
“Let’s say, knock on wood, the Rays come back and win the World Series,” Stanton said. “The Stanley Cup, we win that again. And we go back to the Super Bowl. Now, that value goes up through the roof, right? So it’s probably worth fighting for.”
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