There are undoubtedly a myriad of thoughts running through the mind of any young man who achieves his boyhood dream and gets drafted into the National Football League (NFL): Am I going to start right away? What should I buy with my first big paycheck? Do I have to go to Jacksonville, or can I just retire right now? The last question you might expect is: Can I file a trademark?
Former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has not yet taken a snap for his new employers in Cleveland, but he’s wasted no time cashing in on the celebrity status he gained as an amateur. Manziel has filed to trademark the phrase “The House That Johnny Built,” a nod to both his success playing at Texas A&M and the not entirely coincidental renovations and upgrades that are currently taking place at Kyle Field, the home of A&M’s football team. Unfortunately for Manziel, someone has already filed to trademark that phrase, and it’s a name familiar to those who have followed the quarterback’s tumultuous collegiate career.
The trademark was filed for by Fitch Estate Sales, a company owned by Nate Fitch. Fitch is a friend to Manziel and the man who accompanied Manziel to the numerous autograph sessions that garnered the Heisman Trophy winner a wave of unwanted publicity (and eventually a half-game suspension from the NCAA). Although Fitch’s mother’s attorney, Gerald Fowler, stated to ESPN’s Darren Rovell that it was his understanding the two parties would share the trademark, the multiple filings brings that assumption into question; Fitch Estate Sales filed for the trademark in December, with Manziel filing a month later.
Unless Fitch receives permission from Manziel to move forward with the trademark, he might have trouble with his claim, as trademarks regarding a living person usually require that individual’s permission. Kenneth R. Reynolds Family Investments had previously tried to swoop in to trademark “Johnny Football,” Manziel’s nickname, filing on November 1, 2012, three months before Manziel and his company did. But their claim was rejected in late March, with the examining attorney citing that “the applied-for mark consists of or includes a name, portrait, or signature identifying a particular living individual whose written consent to register the mark is not of record." The firm has since assigned its rights to Manziel, allowing his application to move forward.
While filing for trademarks related to your brand is smart for any business or entrepreneur, observers are left to wonder if such matters had a detrimental effect on Manziel’s status heading into the NFL Draft, given head coaches and front offices around the league are loath to invite anything upon themselves that may be considered a distraction. Fans in Cleveland hope that Manziel's filings and marketing ambitions aren't another "Mistake By The Lake".
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