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'Philly Special': Inside the post-Super Bowl rush to trademark Eagles' famed trick play

The "Philly Special" was one of the gutsiest play calls in Super Bowl history. The next day, aspiring entrepreneurs stared trying to trademark the phrase for sandwiches and clothes. At least three intrepid entrepreneurs think it's even more special than that.

A Florida man’s trademark application for a “Philly Special” clothing line is pending with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
A Florida man’s trademark application for a “Philly Special” clothing line is pending with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.Read moreNathaniel Shoshan

"Philly Special" — that glorious fourth-and-goal direct-snap reverse pass to Eagles quarterback Nick Foles — was one of the gutsiest play calls in Super Bowl history.

At least three intrepid entrepreneurs think it has the potential to be even more than that. Think lucrative.

So lucrative, in fact, that they want the exclusive rights to use the phrase for sandwiches and clothing anywhere in the country.

They're not wasting any time.

On the Monday after the Super Bowl, Joseph Tallarico of Coopersburg, Pa., plunked down $225 to file an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a Philly Special cheesesteak, records show.

On Tuesday, Nathaniel Shoshan of Pompano Beach, Fla., sought to trademark the phrase for a clothing line — everything from T-shirts and hoodies to business suits, button-down aloha shirts, baby clothes "treated with fire and heat retardants," and "clothing shields, namely, pads applied to the underarms of shirts."

On Wednesday, Whalehead Associates, a limited liability corporation located in a gated community in Bonita Springs, Fla., filed a similar application for Philly Special apparel, and sought the help of a big-name law firm.

Shoshan, 37, who runs a health-care recruiting firm and does graphic design work on the side, said the idea was planted in his head when the Minnesota Vikings sought to trademark "Minneapolis Miracle" the day after the team defeated the New Orleans Saints with a crazy last-minute touchdown pass in the NFC divisional playoff game.

"That's kind of what triggered this whole thing," Shoshan said. "I thought, 'Maybe I'll see if I can trademark this.'"

Tallarico, who lives in a small borough in Lehigh County, did not return a phone call and email Monday about his proposed cheesesteak trademark.

Nancy Rubner Frandsen, the Philadelphia-based lawyer at BakerHostetler who filed the trademark application on behalf of Walehead Associates, said she couldn't comment in detail without violating attorney-client privilege.

But, Frandsen said, her client isn't just planning to sit on the trademark in hope of landing a licensing deal or selling it to a large company.

"My client does have a bona fide intention to use it," she said.

Frandsen has some experience with this sort of thing.

"I had a client years ago that asked me to file for 'fourth and 26,'" she said, referring to Donovan McNabb's Jan. 11, 2004, pass to Freddie Mitchell in the Eagles' playoff win over the Green Bay Packers.

Shoshan said he filed the recent application after he "got bit in the butt" when someone obtained a trademark on one of his original designs years ago. He's already selling shirts online with the Philly Special phrase and play diagram, but he wouldn't mind if he ended up selling the trademark — for the right price.

"It's one of those things that is going to be replayed 100,000 times over," he said. "Hopefully, it can turn into something."

An Eagles spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Josh Gerben, a trademark attorney in Washington, said he doubts the new trademark applications will be approved. The Eagles might have grounds to oppose them,  he said, claiming that people could associate the merchandise with the team.

"I'd be surprised if it even got that far," he said.

Gerben said the phrase Philly Special has already become so widespread — similar to Boston Strong following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing — that it could be beyond trademarking.

"You would have a strong argument that it can't function as a trademark because it is so well-known as a reference to that play," he said.

But what about Shawn Wilson, the 25-year-old East Oak Lane resident who filed a trademark application for "Philly Philly" back in November, before the phrase became widely used?

"He has a little bit better argument than some of these other guys," Gerben said. "He may have something there."