Up the Wahs! The Commercial Battle Over a Sports Chant

9 October 2023

In the dynamic world of sports, where passion runs high and fandom knows no bounds, the recent catchphrase "Up the Wahs!" has emerged as a testament to the commercial realities that often accompany the thrill of the game. This seemingly innocent chant has evolved into a trademark tug-of-war between the Warriors and Good George Brewery, highlighting the importance of protecting intellectual property in the world of sports.

Surprisingly, neither the Warriors nor Good George Brewery can claim credit for originating the phrase. Instead, it was the ardent Warriors' fans who coined this spirited expression, making it a rallying cry for the team. Now, both entities are seeking to register "Up the Wahs!" as their trademark, aiming to capitalise on the growing demand for merchandise featuring this catchy slogan.

The potential for profit from "Up the Wahs!" branded merchandise, including t-shirts and flags, is undeniable. However, the question of who rightfully owns this phrase remains contentious. While it wasn't the Warriors' players or management who created it, the team is seen as the natural custodian of the phrase. This assertion, though, raises concerns about fans who initially crafted the expression and the broader fan base.

Good George Brewery's claim to the phrase's ownership is also ambiguous, leaving room for potential disputes. If they secure trademark registrations, it could give them exclusive rights to "Up the Wahs!" and allow them to prevent others, including the Warriors and their fans, from using it. Legal battles over trademark rights could loom large in the near future.

This case underscores the importance of proactive trademark registration for sports organisations. It's not just about protecting your name and logo, but also popular nicknames and phrases associated with your brand. Registering a trademark not only enables your organisation to monetise its brand but also guards against unauthorised use and potential exclusion from its own assets.

In the fast-paced world of sports, staying ahead of the game when it comes to trademark protection is essential. As "Up the Wahs!" demonstrates, failing to do so can lead to complex legal battles and uncertainty over brand ownership.

If you're seeking guidance on safeguarding your organisation's brands, please contact Kate Duckworth at Gibson Sheat Lawyers (kate@kateduckworth.co.nz) to help you navigate the ever-evolving landscape of sports branding and trademark rights.