Trademarks and Sports: Yes, No, Maybe So?

Can trademarks and sports mix? To address this question, I wanted to dive in with several case studies:

  • GREEN BAY PACKERS: Trademark.

Of course, this Cheesehead cannot help but talk about the Green Bay Packers! The Packers’ notable trademark is it’s original one where it claims the services of “entertainment services in the form of professional football games and exhibitions.” In other words, football fans have come to know that the Packers specifically are playing football in part because of their team name: GREEN BAY PACKERS. In addition to the on-the-field product, the Packers also own several trademark for off-the-field products in the form of merch (see here and here). Football fans know they are getting merch from the Packers or an authorized licensee of the Packers because the merch says “GREEN BAY PACKERS” on it.

  • TACO TUESDAY: Not a Trademark.

Readers of this blog may be familiar with basketball star LeBron James’ passion for Taco Tuesday, which emerged publicly in 2019 with a string of Instagram videos of LeBron James passionately promoting Taco Tuesday. The passion rose to a level that LBJ Trademarks LLC, LeBron James’ company, filed to register TACO TUESDAY as a trademark. The USPTO rejected the application on the grounds that “Taco Tuesday” was already a commonplace expression. In other words, the phrase is so common that no one can own it, much like the examples the USPTO offered of “Drive Safely” and “Proudly Made in America” in the office action rejecting the application. This author also has doubts as to whether the mark was being used in a trademark sense: Is saying that phrase on Instagram videos actually using it in connection with the sale of goods and services? …but that is purely speculation.

  • COACH PRIME, WE COMING, etc.: Maybe Trademarks?

Deion Sanders, former NFL star and first-year Head Football Coach for the University of Colorado, made waves in recent weeks by filing a series of trademark applications following his recent resurgence in fame. As of the writing of this blog post, there are 33 outstanding trademark applications filed by Prime Time Enterprises, Inc., Deion Sanders’ company. Several applications have emerged in connection with Coach Prime, Sanders’ nickname (see here, here, and here). Several more seem to stem from phrases uttered by Sanders in recent on-camera moments (GIVE ME MY THEME MUSIC and WE COMING for example). The vast majority of these marks are being filed as “intent-to-use” (see my previous post for context on intent-to-use), so whether they ultimately register will depend on whether Prime Time Enterprises can provide evidence of it’s use in connection to each claimed class of goods and services (primarily merch). This author will be watching with geeky intrigue to see how Sanders performing his duties as an employee of a public university will interact with the claimed services of “Coaching in the field of sports.”

Thanks for reading!