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Trademarking Linsanity

By Elliot Solop [Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012]

In the span of 15 days, Harvard alum Jeremy Lin went from riding the leather cushioned pine on Mike Antoni’s bench (there’s no “D” in his name!  Get it?  Ha. Ha ha.  Oh whatever.) to being a worldwide phenomenon. Before February 4th no one knew that Jeremy Lin was a basketball player, now he’s arguably the most famous professional athlete in the world!

With his newfound celebrity comes a lack of privacy and potential exploitation from his biggest fans. According to the USPTO’s trademark electronic search system (www.uspto.gov), there have already been three trademark applications filed for the term “Linsanity”. Out of the three filed trademark applications, two are from commercially driven fans who have high hopes of selling merchandise donning the coined phrase. The third trademark applicant is Jeremy Lin himself. The United States Patent and Trademark Office frowns upon bad faith attempts of trademark applicants to capitalize off of a renowned celebrity.  In addition to multiple trademark applications for “Linsanity”, the domain name www.linsanity.com has also been purchased by a cyber squatter. Generally, courts look down upon cyber squatting with Chris Bosh’s victory in California federal court to reclaim his online presence and identity as a clear cut example of the court’s willingness to protect a celebrity’s right of publicity.

For an athlete of Jeremy Lin’s stature, it is crucial to protect the intellectual property rights associated with his persona and brand. Lin’s talents on and off the court help develop the profitability of a term such as “Linsanity”. The Lanham Act provides an individual the exclusive right to their legal identity for commercial use. In addition to the Lanham Act, the right of publicity is also protected by common law. Considering Lin is lawyered up, I see no reason why his full arsenal of intellectual property will not be protected accordingly.

Clippers Ask “Clipper Darrell” to Drop the Clipper From His Name

By John Kelly [Friday, April 20th, 2012]

Darrell Bailey has been a diehard Clipper fan for 15 years and has shown it rather exorbitantly.  He was given the name “Clipper Darrell” because of his Clipper infused wardrobe, his passion during home games, and even his Clipper car.  The Clippers have given Darrell free season tickets for years, and in exchange for dropping the “Clipper” from his name they have offered Darrell an extra season ticket.  From a public relations standpoint this has been a nightmare for the Clippers given that they made this request of Darrell once they became relevant as a team, and their star players Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are showing support for Darrell on Twitter, not to mention that the owner of the Clippers has history of poor race relations (he paid the largest out-of-court housing discrimination settlement ever) which some might assume to be a factor given that Darrell is African American. However, amid the media storm that this has created for the Clippers they have come to an agreement with Darrell to allow him to continue using his “Clipper Darrell” nickname so long as he tells them of his public appearances as Clipper Darrell and is careful of any possible endorsement deals. Because they allowed him to keep his nickname, would there have been any First Amendment implications had an agreement not been made?

ROLL TIDE…Alabama Artist in Danger of Being Sacked

By Steven Ward [Monday, April 9th, 2012]

Daniel Moore with one of his University of Alabama football paintings

Imagine you are an alumnus of the University of Alabama and obviously a big fan of their Crimson Tide football team.  If you were to purchase a painting that depicted running back Trent Richardson rushing for a touchdown in this year’s BCS National Championship Game, would you think that the painting is licensed by the University? This is the argument that The University of Alabama, along with vigorous support from colleges across the country, is making in a court battle that will be settled soon by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

As explained in a recent New York Times article outlining the case, Daniel Moore has been painting pictures of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team for over 30 years without a license from the University to do so. His paintings are original but depict scenes from the team’s history incorporating the players and their uniforms in the artwork. Mr. Moore sells both original paintings and reprints ranging in price from $35 to $3,000.  Alabama objects to his use of the team’s uniform and colors in the pictures claiming trademark infringement. The District Court ruled in favor of Mr. Moore for purposes of the paintings and reprints but barred him from using the images on other memorabilia. While the New York Times article outlined some of the history of the case and the stance of the opposing parties, it did not indicate the strength of their arguments or suggest who may win on the appeal. We will do so here.

Read More…

Judge Blocks Access to NCAA Documents

By John Kelly [Saturday, February 11th, 2012]

Recently, a San Francisco Federal judge blocked an attempt by former NCAA athletes to obtain “highly sensitive” TV sports contracts and other documents concerning a class action lawsuit that alleges that the NCAA and its affiliates are unfairly profiting off of athletes images.  This class action in San Francisco, along with a few other related cases going on around the country, alleges a conspiracy in which the NCAA forces collegiate athletes to relinquish their rights while various corporations earn billions of dollars off of their talent and likenesses.  The motion, if granted, would have compelled many “outside” licensing entities including the videogame publisher Electronic Arts, and networks such as FOX and TBS to produce highly sensitive internal information regarding their dealings with the NCAA and its conferences.  The court found compelling Fox’s argument that producing such documents would be extremely burdensome.  The question now is, how big of a blow is this ruling to the plaintiffs’ case?  If the sought-after documents actually exist and are the keys to any valid claim by plaintiffs, this has to be a substantial blow, and possibly the death knell to any chances the plaintiffs had.