College football is one of America’s most popular sports, and it affords the young men who play it the opportunity to become household names before they even reach the legal drinking age. From the greats of yesteryear like Archie Griffin, Herchel Walker, and Doug Flutie, to more recent icons like Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel, the game affords these nascent stars a brief moment to burnish a legacy that will live as long as their respective universities field a football team. Given the fleeting nature of college athletics (and college in general), and the particularly short shelf lives of football players, it would seem the logical step for any high-profile athlete to try and cash in on that stardom, which is exactly what one young quarterback seems poised to do.
Kenny Hill is currently enjoying a breakout season as the starting quarterback for Texas A&M, and his parents have filed for a trademark on the phrase “Kenny Trill” with the intent to use the phrase on athletic apparel (for those not in the know, “trill” is a combination of the words “true” and “real” made popular by the rapper Bun B.) Hill himself stated he preferred the “Kenny Trill” nickname to others given to him by fans and the media, such as “Kenny Thrill” or “Kenny Football.” ESPN’s Darren Rovell reported that Texas A&M has had to issue cease-and-desist letters to several online retailers selling “Kenny Trill” merchandise, as the NCAA places the burden on individual schools to stop such infringements.
Unfortunately for Hill’s parents, they were not the first in line to file for the trademark on “Kenny Trill.” Andrew Rose, a Louisiana resident, applied for the mark a day before the Hills’ filing. So while Rose might have priority as the first to file with the USPTO, as the trademark is related to a person, he would need permission from Hill himself for the application to go through. Hill also has the endorsement of Bun B, a Houston native and friend of Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, who stated on Twitter:
Like the idea of "Kenny Trill" but I think @coachsumlin would agree one good game alone doesn't make you trill. He's on his way though!— Bun B (@BunBTrillOG) September 2, 2014
Texas A&M is certainly no stranger to having a larger-than-life star trying to cash in on his success, nor to exercising their own trademark muscle. Texas A&M holds the rights to several marks related to “12th Man” a reference to its fans, which it subsequently licenses to the Seattle Seahawks. As with any entity, it’s important to make sure your trademarks are protected, and equally so to make sure you aren’t infringing on others' intellectual property. Finding yourself in the center of a potential lawsuit would certainly not be “trill.”
Even college football players risk having IP stolen. Find out what level of risk your business has.