Former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady recently signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After 20 seasons with the New England Patriots, the news comes as a shock to many football fans. The change is also going to lead to some interesting new trademarks. Tampa Bay wide receiver Chris Godwin even switched his jersey number to 14 so newcomer Brady could keep his signature number 12.
Professional athletes typically establish corporate entities that allow them to more easily manage trademarks related to their professional careers, likenesses, and merchandising efforts. TEB Capital Management, Inc. is Tom Brady’s corporate entity, which recently filed two new trademark applications for the phrases “Tampa Brady” and “Tompa Bay.” Tom Brady has also successfully obtained trademarks for “TB12,” which he uses on a wide variety of merchandise centered around the athlete’s professional football career.
What Do Tom Brady’s New Trademarks Mean?
Tom Brady’s newest trademarks aim to reserve the football star’s future merchandising as he begins his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. To successfully obtain trademarks for phrases such as these, the United States Patent and Trademark Office must acknowledge the applicant’s bona fide intention to use the mark for commercial purposes. These newest registrations exist in stark contrast to another recent trademark application filed by Brady, which aimed to trademark the nickname “Tom Terrific.”
Brady dropped the “Tom Terrific” application after sports fans were outraged that he wanted to simply trademark the nickname because he didn’t like it and didn’t want anyone else profiting from using it in reference to himself. However, “Tom Terrific” has been a long-standing nickname for Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver. When confronted about the “Tom Terrific” trademark application, Brady essentially admitted to an improper motive for the application as he had no intention of using the trademark for his own commercial purposes.
Conflicts Over Trademark Application
Professional athletes have often encountered trouble when applying for trademarks, as it is not uncommon for private individuals to apply for trademarks with the intention of commercializing a trademarked phrase connected to an athlete. For example, several individuals attempted to trademark “Linsanity” in reference to NBA star Jeremy Lin and his professional accomplishments. However, the examining attorney at the USPTO ruled against these applications as the athlete had not provided his mark of approval for use of the trademarked term.
So far, two individuals have filed trademarks for the term “Tompa Brady” in response to Brady’s announcement to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the USPTO will likely reject these applications in light of Tom Brady’s recent application for the same trademark since the term is an obvious connection to Brady and his professional career.
How the USPTO Reviews Trademark Applications
The USPTO has reviewed many trademark applications for nicknames, phrases, and other terms related to professional athletes over the years. However, most of these applications meet with denials due to the fact that the athletes they reference never approved their use. If an athlete does not provide express approval for goods and merchandise produced with a trademarked phrase, the USPTO will typically reject the application and allow the athlete to apply for a trademark instead.
This is due to the fact that in order to use someone’s likeness as a trademark, you must have and submit the express written permission of the person referenced. This is true of any mark identifying an individual, regardless of fame. However, USPTO examiners are taught to determine whether an application is utilizing the name, image, or likeness of notable persons.
Navigating patent applications, trademark laws, and the countless laws surrounding intellectual property in the United States can be incredibly difficult, especially when it comes to trademarks that reference notable figures like professional athletes. Tom Brady’s recent trademark applications indicate the football star plans to launch a massive merchandising effort to build support among Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans and establish his new brand as a Tampa Bay quarterback.
The Myers Law Group specializes in intellectual property law. We can help those who have legal questions about their trademark applications and concerns about their intellectual property. Contact us today if you need legal advice concerning patents, trademarks, or intellectual property in the Newport Beach, California area.