This football season, a trademark held by the national hockey team the Phoenix Coyotes nearly blacklisted Penn State's use of the term "White Out."
Lucky for Lions fans, Penn State found some gray area.
"We have applied to protect the phrase 'Penn State White Out' in connection with the promotion of fan participation and involvement in collegiate athletic events," said Greg Myford, associate athletic director of marketing. "Penn State intends to register the phrase for protection on a national level."
But "White Out" is not originally a Nittany namesake.
In fact, Steve Weinreich, vice president of general counsel for the Phoenix Coyotes, said that any variation on the term for marketing purposes is "in violation of the law," restricting certain posters, advertisements and garments around campus.
This week, Penn State promotional material inviting students to the "White House" has spread across campus.
"You better believe it," Myford said. "Our students have proven the impact of the White Out, and now we're ready to take it to the next level by asking all Nittany Lion fans to drape Beaver Stadium in white. If we all do our part, we'll be able to pick out every Notre Dame fan in the place."
Weinreich said that if Penn State were to use the term "White Out" for this weekend's game, it would be in violation of a mutual agreement.
"As of last year, when we spoke with representatives from the university, they understood that they could use it one time," he said. "We had an agreement, and now they are apparently not living up to what they say."
The Phoenix Coyotes, a National Hockey League (NHL) team, originally the Winnipeg Jets, coined the term "Winnipeg White Out" in 1987, asking fans to sport the color to a playoff game against the Calgary Flames, in response to their "sea of red."
A note was sent to Penn State last year from the NHL team. Taking heed, Myford said the two-word phrase was barred from the university's official White Out T-shirts.
Mike Lampariello (junior-landscape architecture), winner of this year's T-shirt design contest, said he was puzzled with the cutting of what seemed to be "the most logical" phrase to use.
"Not using 'White Out' made my design a little challenging," he said. "Last year's shirt had it blasted across the front."
Though Myford said the price is unknown, the university hopes to legally own its own slice of the sporty slogan within 12 to 24 months.
Jeff Holbrook, executive vice president of the Phoenix Coyotes, said the "one-time use" of the phrase referred to more than just the official T-shirts and that use for any marketing material is prohibited without allowance.
"There is no further permission for Penn State to use that trademark," Holbrook said. "We will have to confer on this matter internally."
He would not comment on whether the Coyotes would pursue legal action.
Trademark or not, Myford said a "White Out" is an object of school spirit, rather than a legally owned commodity.
"Frankly, our students and fans have already taken ownership of the term, so even if Penn State were not able to use the phrase legally, simply planting the seed with students to wear white at a designated game would be enough to get them spreading the word of an upcoming White Out," Myford said.
Weinreich said the term "White Out" is also a part of his company's legacy and equated it to another team calling themselves the "Nittany Lions" and bearing the same blue-and-white logo.
In fact, this happened recently when a Morganton, N.C., high school was called out by the Collegiate Licensing Company for bearing an emblem "confusingly similar" to Penn State's trademarked lion head.
But Myford said the future use of "Penn State White Out" is different than the recent controversy surrounding the trademark infringing by the high school.
"Them using our logo is basically someone else using copyrighted or trademarked material that has already been granted to someone else," he said. "Us using 'White Out' is making a claim for Penn State to be granted use of the term because the term currently isn't spoken for."