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Today’s Note: Linsanity?

February 21, 2012

Today’s Note reviews a post on Forbes.com about the legal rights to the term “Linsanity” as it refers to abrupt NBA sensation Jeremy Lin. “It’s A Jump Ball For ‘Linsanity’ Trademark,” by Kenneth Liu, discusses efforts by several to cash in on Lin’s sudden success by registering a trademark for the term “Linsanity.” Kenneth Liu is a guest blogger on Forbes.com, and has written an excellent summary of the subject.

The gist of the piece is that two people have tried to register of the legal rights to the word “Linsanity” for commercial purposes, and is summed up by Liu this way: “Just days after Lin began his streak of top scoring games, two people filed applications to register the trademark “Linsanity” with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for use with athletic apparel.” [except where noted, italics are added by me and denote a quote from Liu’s post] He goes on to expand on these efforts:

One was filed by Andrew Slayton, an unofficial volunteer basketball coach of Lin at Palo Alto high school, who has been selling unofficial Jeremy Lin T-shirts since he created the first “Linsanity” website in July 2010–well before Lin’s sudden fame.

Michael Yenchin Chang, a California businessman, beat him to it, filing an application two days earlier, on Feb. 7. Chang told Bloomberg that he would be willing to sell the trademark to Lin, but “just wanted to be part of the excitement.”

So, the question is really whether these efforts help either party. Liu explains “If someone files an “Intent-to-Use” application with the Patent & Trademark Office, as Chang did, he can acquire senior trademark rights in the term once the application matures to registration. However, under trademark common law, the first person to use a term specifically to sell goods or services generally has senior trademark rights in the term. ” But Lin gets to be part of the conversation, too: “many states grant a right of publicity that may be violated by someone attempting to trade on his name without permission.

Liu also tackles the question of whether an announcer or journalist could be prohibited from using the trademarked term. According to Liu, the answer seems to be “no,” unless they’re trying to profit from it. He says “Jeremy Lin fans and sports commentators do not need to worry that they will need to stop using the term to describe the current sports craze.  Owning a trademark does not mean that one has the right to stop others from using the term generically. A trademark owner only has the right to stop others from using the same term, or any confusingly similar term, to sell goods or services similar to those sold by the trademark owner.

The subtitle of the post informs us that “This is a guest post by Kenneth Liu, an intellectual property and internet law attorney with the law firm of Gammon & Grange, in McLean, VA.” [these italics and link preserved from article]

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From → Business, Law, Sports

One Comment
  1. Sean Breslin permalink

    Great post!

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