In honor of Johnny Manziel’s pro day, there’s something for the Texas A&M star to celebrate. Just last week, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected an application made by an entity unaffiliated with Manziel for the mark JOHNNY FOOTBALL, paving the way for Manziel’s application to proceed.
Manziel rose to fame in 2012 breaking numerous records in his first season with Texas A&M. Along with the Heisman Trophy, the Manning Award, and the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award, Manziel also won a nickname – “Johnny Football” – that followed his rise to popularity.
On November 1, 2012, just as the nickname had started to gain popularity, a local investment firm named Kenneth R. Reynolds Family Investments, unassociated with Manziel, filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the mark JOHNNY FOOTBALL, claiming the mark was not associated with any particular individual. When Manziel sought to register the mark three months later through JMAN2 Enterprises, his filing was placed on hold due to the already-pending Reynolds filing.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark office refused the registration, according to its examining attorney, because “the applied-for mark consists of or includes a name, portrait, or signature identifying a particular living individual whose written consent to register the mark is not of record.” The examiner also attached to the rejection notice, as support, news articles specifically referring to Johnny Manziel by his nickname.
The examiner’s rejection is supported by 15 U.S.C. §1052(c), which provides that a name that identifies a living person cannot be registered as a trademark without such person’s written consent. This includes nicknames, provided that a person is sufficiently known in the field of the product or service that the relevant public would associate the person with the mark in question. Certainly, a trophied star quarterback with a significant fan following could qualify in this instance.
Manziel is now one step closer to calling his nickname his own; Reynolds has up to six months to either request reconsideration by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or appeal to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. Once the Reynolds filing is resolved, Manziel’s application can be reopened. The takeaway here, though, is one we’ve discussed on Trending Trademarks before; since a popular nickname has the potential to be quite lucrative for an athlete, it makes sense for that athlete to run to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to register the mark as soon as the nickname takes off, before someone else tries to beat them to it.