Better watch out: NORAD trademarks Santa operation

DENVER — The U.S. military has clamped a trademark on its wildly popular NORAD Tracks Santa operation and licensed a private company to sell T-shirts and other goods — not to make money, officials insist, but to keep profiteers from cashing in.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command, which stages the Santa-tracking event from its headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., obtained the trademark this year.

The Defense Department’s Branding and Trademark Licensing Office — yes, Virginia, there is a Pentagon trademark office — advised the military to sell NORAD Tracks Santa merchandise to cement its ownership of the name, said Navy Cmdr. Jeff Davis, a NORAD spokesman.

“We had a vulnerability by not having a NORAD Tracks Santa trademark,” Davis said. “The vulnerability was that anyone could come along and sell merchandise or somehow use it to make a profit.”

NORAD signed the licensing agreement in November with U.S. Allegiance of Bend, Ore., which specializes in licensed souvenirs and has worked other deals with the military.

The company launched on Dec. 1. The biggest seller so far is a customized letter from Santa, said Steve Crawford, president of U.S. Allegiance. Another favorite is a red T-shirt that says “I tracked Santa 2012.”

To Crawford’s surprise, many orders are coming in from overseas. He said he plans to expand the line of goods next year to include languages other than English.
“The globalized popularity of NORAD Tracks Santa is really amazing,” he said.


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