Houston, You Have a Problem: Oilers IP Belongs To Titans
Pictured: Steve McNair in a Tennessee (not Houston) Oilers Jersey, previous to the Titans name change (Source: BASHH Guidelines)
The Tennessee Titans will be celebrating their Houston Oilers roots during Week 3 of the NFL season at Nissan Stadium. As much as enraged fans, talking heads , and news outlets want their division rivals, the Houston Texans, to own the history of the city’s former franchise, it is, in fact, owned by the Titans - the original and owner of the name and trademark.
For the uninitiated, the Houston Oilers moved to Tennessee in 1997 when the City of Houston would not greenlight a new home for the Oilers after several decades in the Astrodome. The Oilers relocated to Tennessee and spent the next couple of seasons in the Volunteer State as the Tennessee Oilers, before changing their name t the Titans. A name which moves away from one which is inherently Texas, to one which is more appropriate for “Athens of the South.”
It is well established that there is a direct chain of custody from Oilers to Titans. This is not a situation akin to the original Cleveland Browns moving to Baltimore, becoming the Ravens and completely relinquishing the identity, while another franchise picked it up.
Original Oiler Earl Campbell talking with Derrick Henry after Titans Training Camp in 2019. (Source: Tennessee Titans)
The Oilers/Titans ownership group never abandoned the Oilers trademark. USPTO filings dating back to the 1970s show that Houston Oilers, Inc., who have offices in both Houston and Tennessee, have kept their trademarks active.
There have been previous attempts by Texans ownership to lay claim to the Oiler name. Before settling on the Texans as a name, the ownership group in Houston petitioned to become the Oilers. However, it belonged to the owners, the Adams family, and it remained in their hands. The mark was never abandoned because it remains a business commodity for merchandising and other purposes. More importantly, they are owned by the people who created the mark, not by the city who did not try hard enough to keep the team around. The US Trademark system does not simply transfer ownership of marks because some feelings are hurt.
The Titans have not donned the Carolina Blue and White since the AFL anniversary season in 2008, but for good reason. The league has mandated for teams to only have one helmet design for the season. However, Titans Majority Owner Amy Adams Strunk has said when the league adopts their new rule, which has been passed for upcoming seasons, the Titans will wear their originals in select games.
Vince Young in the Titans “AFL Throwbacks” in 2008. (Source: NFL)
When you see the 80+ former Oilers get honored in Nashville during Week 3 of the NFL season, know it is being done by the owners of the original “Luv Ya Blue” franchise, and not by an attempt at stolen history and IP.