Bills looking to trademark 'Bills Mafia'

The franchise is hoping to capitalize on the initiative started by its fans

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - The Buffalo Bills are looking to trademark the term "Bills Mafia" in an effort to sell merchandise bearing its name.

Josh Gerben, Founder of Gerben Intellectual Property in Washington, D.C., first highlighted the application that was filed earlier this week.

"When you file a trademark application like this, that is basically a claim to ownership of the name," said Gerben.

"Bills Mafia" was first started several years ago by fans like Del Reid, the owner of 26 Shirts. Reid sells merchandise related to the team, but it is not specifically team-apparel. As the "Bills Mafia" moniker has become somewhat of a national identity for Bills fans at large, could that hinder the organization's ability to trademark the phrase?

"Typically, if somebody or some organization were to start the use of a particular trademark even if they never filed for a trademark application with the federal government, they would have something called a common law trademark, so they would have some rights to the name just through the use of the name," Gerben continued. "In this case though, 'Bills Mafia', arguably, needs to use the Bills trademark to make that work because you're still using the Buffalo Bills name in association with the football team to make and sell that merchandise."

Reid has not commented specifically on this trademark, but the application is being met with social media criticisms among Bills fans.

Gerben did note that it's not the best look for the organization from a public relations standpoint.

"I think if there was no coordination with the leaders of the 'Bills Mafia,' if you will, I do think it was a poor PR move to just make the filing," he said. "I would hope that they would have spoken to them and coordinated with them..."