Who owns 'SEAL Team 6?'

The Navy created the SEAL Team 6 squad that killed Osama bin Laden earlier this month. Now Disney is trying to trademark SEAL Team 6 for future commercial use.

Bill West / The Star-Beacon / AP / File
Outdoor Army-Navy store owner Bill Hyland displays the U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6 patch available at his store on Main Avenue in Ashtabula, Ohio. SEAL Team 6 carried out the mission to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Now, Disney is applying for the trademark "SEAL Team 6."

The military may have spent 10 years tracking down and finally killing Osama bin Laden, but a company that fights its battles with magical spells and dragons may be the one that ultimately cashes in on the military operation.

Just two days after President Obama announced that the Navy group "SEAL Team 6" had killed Mr. bin Laden, Disney filed applications with the US Patent Office for the trademark of the group's name. Ten days after that, the Navy put in a trademark application for “SEAL Team." The Navy's application, along with the rights that it already has to the trademark “Navy SEALs,” could help block approval for Disney’s request.

If the Patent Office approves, Disney would have exclusive rights to capitalize on “SEAL Team 6” in the ways the company specified on its applications. The company filed three separate requests that cover different areas of how it might use the name, such as for entertainment and education, as well as for Christmas stockings, hand-held video games, footwear, and snow globes.

Disney may get approval, but what’s more likely to happen, says University of Minnesota Law professor William McGeveran, is that Disney and the Navy will reach some kind of mutually beneficial agreement. Law enforcement agencies, such as the New York City Police Department, make such arrangements, lending out their trademark or cars, in exchange for compensation or script approval, Mr. McGeveran says. He could imagine that Disney might want to make a movie or TV show based on SEAL Team 6 and would strike some kind of deal with the Navy.

It could also be problematic for Disney that so many other people have been using the term "SEAL Team 6" commercially since bin Laden's death, by selling T-shirts or other merchandise with the name. Disney has not used the group's name commercially yet, which is why it filed an application for its intent to use it.

“Disney might not be the first to commercially exploit this,” McGeveran says.

If they do get the rights, the Navy can't expand its commercial use of the name SEAL Team 6.

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