For years, athletic leagues, collegiate sports associations, and professional teams have dominated the savvy use of intellectual property procurement to solidify their ownership of not only the teams, leagues and associations themselves, but to also monopolize the ownership of the name and likeness of the players that earn these entities billions of dollars annually.
This issue was brought to light in the legal world in the notable appellate battle between professional sports leagues and the fantasy leagues which profited off of the statistics, names, logos, and slogans associated with these various league's players and teams.
The ruling in C.B.C. Distribution v. Major League Baseball, a case denied cert by the Supreme Court, leaving in place the final decision of the Eighth Circuit, held that the First Amendment interests in public information about baseball and baseball players outweighed the players’ state law right of publicity.
What was interesting about the ruling was those rights of publicity allegedly the property of the "players" was actually the property of MLB, thus the basis for the league, not a group of players, standing as the plaintiffs in the case.
It may have been this ruling and the attention it received that began the trend of players taking control of their own name and likeness, a trend reflected in a significant amount of professional and collegiate athletes acting swiftly in personally protecting the nicknames assigned to them by teammates, fans, and the media.
Just in the last year, we have had Jeremy Lin and his legal disputes over the ownership of the LINSANITY trademark. Next it was No. 1 NBA Draft Pick Anthony Davis and his series of self-deprecating trademarks centered around his unusual UNIBROW trademark look.
Heisman winner JOHNNY FOOTBALL made sure the NFL didn't get its hands on the famous moniker bestowed upon the young QB out of Texas, a trademark which could earn him as much as his rookie contract given its already ubiquitous presence in the media and its potential for endless forms of commercial use in the coming seasons.
Just this week, further evidence came from the USPTO that players view the value of their own intellectual property as essential tools to further profit from their unique talents, especially given the sometimes short playing careers of professional athletes due to injuries, lack luster play, and sometimes an absence of opportunity.
Seemingly just hours after confirming he was sure to be one of the feel good stories covered by the media from every angle imaginable during the two weeks leading up to the Superbowl, Colin Kapernick took steps to ensure that no one but himself would stand to benefit from his meteoric rise to national fame.
As a late draft pick, his ability to profit from his personal branding efforts is yet another example of professional athletes taking back the profits normally taken by the leagues they play for, and a demonstration that athletes can play the branding game just as well as leagues and teams their personal brands result from.
Here are the trademarks CK7 recently filed with the USPTO:
1. Colin Kaepernick: Clothing, namely, shirts, pants, jackets, footwear, hats and caps, jerseys
2. Kaepernick CK7: Clothing, namely, shirts, pants, jackets, footwear, hats and caps, jerseys
3. Kap7: Clothing, namely, shirts, pants, jackets, footwear, hats and caps, jerseys
4. Kap: Clothing, namely, shirts, pants, jackets, footwear, hats and caps, jerseys
5. Kaepernick7: Clothing, namely, shirts, pants, jackets, footwear, hats and caps, jerseys
6. Kaepernicking: Clothing, namely, shirts