Football fans in New Jersey and around the country will likely know that a catchy nickname can add to the aura surrounding an athlete. Nicknames can be valuable intellectual property, but they can be difficult to protect if they are not original. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady learned this lesson on Aug. 22 when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected his application to trademark the nickname “Tom Terrific”.
The USPTO denied Brady’s trademark application because the nickname has long been associated with the legendary Major League Baseball pitcher Tom Seaver. Trademarks are commonly denied when they could confuse consumers by suggesting that one brand is associated with another. Brady will now have six months to decide whether or not to appeal the decision. If he declines to take action, the trademark application will be considered abandoned.
Brady has been criticized in the media and by several prominent New York lawmakers for attempting to purloin Seaver’s nickname to sell T-shirts and other merchandise. Brady says that nothing could be further from the truth. The six-time Super Bowl winner claims that he hates the ‘Tom Terrific” nickname and only sought a trademark to ensure that other companies cannot use it on items bearing his likeness. Brady’s recent comments to the press suggest that he is unlikely to file an appeal with the USPTO.
Attorneys with trademark law experience would likely conduct research before submitting paperwork to the USPTO to find out if the phrases, slogans or images their clients wish to protect are already being used. When confusion seems likely and the chances of securing a trademark are slim, attorneys could suggest making modifications to the artwork or language. This would improve the likelihood of a trademark being awarded, diminish the chances of being sued for trademark infringement and reduce confusion among consumers.