Who’s Tom Terrific? Trademark Controversy Pitches Football a Strike against Baseball
Updated: Jun 24, 2019
The latest high profile trademark controversy involves two iconic sports figures – Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Tom Seaver and New England Patriots football quarterback Tom Brady. Tom Brady’s sports management company recently filed two trademark applications to register with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) “Tom Terrific.” While the applications are filed in two separate International Classes – one for trading cards and the like, and the other for tee shirts and wearing apparel, they were filed as “Intent to Use” vs. actual “Use in Commerce” applications. This means that nothing has been sold with the “Tom Terrific” logo as yet by the Tom Brady management company applicant.
As you might expect, fans of Tom Seaver, including the New York Mets baseball team with which he spent 12 years, are not pleased with this alleged “poaching” on the part of Tom Brady promoters. It will be interesting to see whether any Tom Seaver representatives file a formal protest to the Tom Brady Tom Terrific registration application or if the USPTO’s own Examining Attorney(s) reviewing the two applications initially refuse to allow registration and on what grounds they might be denied registration.
In any event, it would be fairly difficult for the Tom Brady USPTO registration applicant to claim any exclusivity. Nor would it be able to make a very convincing argument that there would be no confusion in the minds of the public as to the source of “Tom Terrific” for any of its trading cards or apparel. Even if the Tom Brady-related applicant is successful in securing trademark registration of the “Tom Terrific” mark, because the Tom Seaver contingent can cite prior, long-term use of this same logo/expression over many years to describe Tom Seaver, the Brady Bunch most likely will not be able to prevent continued use of “Tom Terrific” in conjunction with Tom Seaver.
In baseball terms, at the bottom of the ninth, carefully check previous use of pithy phrases before going Yogi into commerce with deja vu all over again.
Pellegrin’s BriefCase SM/©
Volume 3, Issue #4, June 2019
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