As the National Football League and National Collegiate Athletic Association continue to dominate television ratings and markets, sports teams, high-profile athletes and coaches have begun to cash in on their success by trademarking phrases or slogans that resonate with their fans.

For example, shortly after winning this year’s Super Bowl, the New England Patriots filed a flurry of trademarks aimed at capitalizing on their increased value, success, and marketability. According to recent applications filed with the U.S. Trademark Office, the New England Patriots already have applications pending for the phrases, “No Days Off” and “Blitz for Six.” The New England Patriots are no strangers to the trademark game, having successfully registered “Do Your Job” in the past, a mantra often repeated by the Patriot devout, which, in turn, spawned a mini-controversy when it was revealed that the new training facilities for the Dallas Cowboys also had the ubiquitous phrase painted on its wall.

The Kraft Group, the parent company of the New England Patriots, has also received registrations for “19-0” and “Perfect Season,” although those trademarks have not actually been used by the Patriots since their loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII. Instead, the Patriots have successfully licensed the mark to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, allowing use of the “Perfect Season” trademark in a DVD commemorating the 2015 championship state football game between the schools, Central Catholic and Xavierian Brothers.

Licensing to or from other sports organizations is not unheard of for professional football teams. As many may already know, the Seattle Seahawks’ famous “12th man” battle cry is actually licensed from Texas A&M University, and the Seahawks just recently renewed the license for a whopping $140,000.

Even individual coaches and players have joined the trademark game. Then USC’s Steve Sarkisian has sought to register “SARK” for use in connection with clothing such as shirts, t-shirts, sweatshirts, sweaters, pants, shorts, skirts, dresses, wristbands, socks, hats, shoes, and headwear; as well for a website that features information of interest that would interest entertainment and sports enthusiasts, including for information related to college football, coaching sports, fan club services, photographs and videos.

Similarly, high-profile Ohio State coach, Urban Meyer, has also pursued legal protection of his name and likeness. Ohio State, however, has proven more adept at cashing in on their coach’s success by securing a limited right from Meyer to use his name, voice, image, likeness, and all other similar publicity rights. Per the agreement, Ohio State may use Meyer’s likeness in connection with specific lucrative endeavors, while Meyer is allowed to use his likeness in connection with charitable pursuits and opportunities that do not conflict with Ohio State’s business interests.

As practitioners, it would behoove us to advise our clients, whether they are the athlete, coach, or university itself, to seek immediate registration of relevant trademarks and lock down any licensing agreements as necessary. As most athletes or universities often focus on lucrative endorsement deals as opposed to protection of basic intellectual property, attorneys should advise their clients to not overlook the importance of registration of relevant trademarks in addition to the protection of their rights to publicity.

For more information on this topic, please visit our Trademark Management service page, which is part of our Trademark Practice.

Klemchuk LLP is an Intellectual Property (IP), Technology, Internet, and Business law firm located in Dallas, TX.  The firm offers comprehensive legal services including litigation and enforcement of all forms of IP as well as registration and licensing of patents, trademarks, trade dress, and copyrights.  The firm also provides a wide range of technology, Internet, e-commerce, and business services including business planning, formation, and financing, mergers and acquisitions, business litigation, data privacy, and domain name dispute resolution.  Additional information about the trademark law firm and its trademark attorneys may be found at www.klemchuk.com.

Klemchuk LLP hosts Culture Counts, a blog devoted to the discussion of law firm culture and corporate core values with frequent topics about positive work environment, conscious capitalism, entrepreneurial management, positive workplace culture, workplace productivity, and corporate core values.

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