Six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady filed a trademark application to register the mark “Tom Terrific.” Three-time NBA champion LeBron James recently initiated an effort to register the trademark “Taco Tuesday.”
Each act sparked an incredibly large amount of attention and criticism. Brady called the negative attention “unfortunate” and said that he would try to handle the trademarking process differently the next time, remarking that it was a “good lesson learned.” LeBron has yet to speak publicly about his trademark application, but the fact that he filed to register “Taco Tuesday” is a headline on the front page of ESPN.com.
These filings have created a new era whereby trademark applications, made by corporate entities belonging to the successful athletes, also serve to alienate fans. Just check Twitter’s trending topics and see for yourself.
What a time to be alive!
Sports business reporter Darren Rovell ran a poll on Twitter asking his followers to vote on what they think of LeBron filing to register the trademark to “Taco Tuesday.” He received more than 100,000 votes, making it his most voted on Twitter poll to date. Who knew that trademark filings could be so controversial?
62% of those voting in Rovell’s poll answered that they believe the mark “Taco Tuesday” is not for LeBron to own. While most people voting have likely not attended law school nor focused their studies on intellectual property, it serves as an interesting window to what fans believe about LeBron’s filing. They think he has overreached.
Yet, perhaps the most meaningful result of Rovell’s coverage of the “Tom Terrific” and “Taco Tuesday” trademark filings is that it brings to light the importance of athletes protecting their intellectual property.
It appears that Brady will be unsuccessful in his attempt to register “Tom Terrific,” even indicating to the press that he does not seem to care about the registration after all. LeBron James may have an uphill battle in trying to register “Taco Tuesday” for many reasons, including but not limited to its extensive use by others, it being a generic phrase, it being registered for many years by another corporate entity and it possibly failing to function as a trademark. However, other athletes should be watching closely and thinking about whether they have valuable marks worthy of protection. Fans seem to care as well, based on the reaction to Rovell’s tweets.
It makes sense for fans and athletes to care about these attempts to register intellectual property. Like any property, the registrations, if obtained, may possess tremendous value and provide power to the registrant. A registration provides many benefits, including but not limited to a legal presumption of your ownership of the mark and your exclusive right to use same in connection with the goods or services highlighted in the application and the ability to bring an action for infringement or dilution in federal court, with the option of seeking statutory damages.
At Heitner Legal, we have worked with the likes of Draymond Green, Fred VanVleet, Iman Shumpert, Terrell Owens and many others in assisting them register their valuable trademarks. Athletes are benefitted by having a lawyer assist them in what tends to be a very complicated and convoluted process.