I love sports and often turn to sports for inspiration, entertainment, and case studies for use with clients! Today, I want to briefly discuss the importance of Jeremy Lin and his quest to be the ONLY rights holder to his trademark name, “LINSANITY”!
As you know, his journey to becoming a New York Knick (and later an LA Laker) is not the common athletes rise to glory story. Yet despite many setbacks, Lin rose above it all and joined the ranks amongst the NBA’s best and become a pop culture phenomenon along the way.
Some folks saw his rise to fame as a business opportunity, seeking to capitalize on LINSANITY by filing federal trademark applications with the USPTO. The USPTO caught on quickly, as so did Lin, so he and his team at Arent Fox moved at lightning speed to squash these wannabe applicants. With a swift move, he made sure the other LINSANITY applicants ceased and desist their get rich quick ventures, requiring these vendors to stop capitalized on his hard earned nickname by selling unlicensed LINSANITY merchandise. The USPTO and Lin also knee capped the Lin-related marks by preventing variations, or phonetic versions like Lynn, from being falsely associated to Lin without his formal and actual consent.
All this without even getting into the infringement issues that arise with “right to publicity” laws and the use of Lin’s name and image by the unlicensed vendors, another topic to discuss later. The NBA was also unhappy about the unlicensed merchandise using NBA intellectual property and looked to enforce against the counterfeit goods in the US, China, and other counties.
In the end, Lin’s swift attention to the matter allowed him to trump the other applications, paving the way for his sole ownership over the term LINSANITY to use on merchandise, including duffle bags, cups, water bottles, clothing, toys, sports drinks, and other related products. He also allowed for an easy transition into the film industry, releasing his documentary film “Linsanity” which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
Bottom Line: Don’t mess with Jeremy Lin and the NBA. Linsanity is a prime example of what NOT to do with USPTO applications unless you are Jeremy Lin himself, then good job on your trademark protection strategy!