Jeffrey F. Levine

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recently ruled on an intellectual property dispute between outdoor apparel company Jack Wolfskin Ausrustung Fur Draussen GmbH & Co. KGAA (Wolfskin), and sportswear company New Millennium Sports, S.L.U. (New Millennium). The case arose after Wolfskin attempted to trademark a non-human paw print design to use on its products. The court’s analysis of the legal effect of modifications to protected trademarks and its discussion concerning the common use of paw prints in trademark designs is particularly useful to sport marketers and...Read more

Steve McKelvey
John Grady

“Sport Marketing and the Law” column of Sport Marketing Quarterly—have, through the appellate process, produced new decisions warranting attention from legal and sport marketing scholars and practitioners. These recent decisions have the potential to reshape certain aspects of sport marketing practice and reflect litigation trends of which savvy sport marketers should be aware.Read more

John Grady
Mark S. Nagel

On February 15, 2013, Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel’s licensing company, JMAN2 Enterprises LLC, filed suit against Eric Vaughn, who had been selling a variety of shirts that featured the phrase “Keep Calm and Johnny Football” with various uses of Texas A&M’s color scheme and/or protected logos (Watson, 2013a). Manziel filed to register a trademark in his nickname “Johnny Football” during the 2012 season prior to winning the Heisman Trophy (the trademark registration was still pending approval before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office [USPTO] at the time of this writing). His...Read more

Jonathan Goins

Michael Jeffrey Jordan. MJ. Air Jordan. No. 23. Six-time NBA Champion. Six-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player. Five-time NBA Most Valuable Player of the Year. Ten-time NBA scoring champion. Naismith College Player of the Year. Two-time Olympic gold medalist. NBA Hall of Famer. Who would not want to pay homage to arguably the greatest player in NBA history? In tribute to Jordan’s induction into the Hall of Fame, a grocery store’s advertisement tried to do just that.Read more

In November 2009, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama issued a ruling on motions for summary judgment and declaratory judgment in the long dormant case of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees v. New Life Art (2009). The highly publicized lawsuit, initially filed in 2005, pitted sports artist Daniel Moore against his alma mater, the University of Alabama (Grady, 2005). The case involves Moore’s art prints depicting Crimson Tide football players playing against rival teams. The art work features the player uniforms as well as the well-recognized school colors...Read more

The highly publicized case of Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University, et al. v. Smack Apparel (2008) moved one step closer to resolution with the Fifth Circuit’s decision in favor of the plaintiff universities. The appellate court affirmed the district court’s holding that Smack Apparel was liable for trademark infringement. The court’s opinion provides sport marketers with an understanding of the legal issues that are frequently litigated in cases involving manufacturers of unlicensed sports merchandise. The case also highlights the need for sport marketers to work hand in...Read more

Steve McKelvey

Trademark dilution has been described by one legal commentator as “probably the single most muddled concept in all of trademark doctrine” (Beebe, 2006, p. 1144). Two recent sport-related decisions have, however, served to illuminate the application of the doctrine to sport-related trademarks through interpretation of the 2006 amendments to the Federal Trademark Dilution Act of 1995 (“FTDA”). Both decisions provide guidance to sport-related brands and sport teams, and particularly colleges and universities, that seek to bring dilution claims (typically brought in conjunction with trademark...Read more

Anita M. Moorman

Last summer, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals took the opportunity to recount a memorable baseball highlight (the 1983 Pine Tar incident) and remind us of the essential requirements of trademark law. The 1983 Pine Tar incident (Major League Baseball, 1983) that occurred during the July 24, 1983, game between the Kansas City Royals and the New York Yankees had nothing to do with the controversy before the court except that Hall of Fame baseball player, George Brett, was involved in both the Pine Tar incident and the current litigation. This connection, although remote, opened the door...Read more

Matthew T. Brown
David Matthew Zuefle
Paul J. Batista

Developing brand equity has been a focus of sport marketers over the past 15 years (Milne & McDonald, 1999). Mullin, Hardy, and Sutton (2000) stated that brand equity can be built through tangible product extensions, distinct trademarks, history, tradition, festival, and spectacle. In attempting to increase brand equity through a change in the building blocks of brand equity or antecedents of equity (Gladden, Milne & Sutton, 1998; Gladden & Milne, 1999), legal conflict may arise. For example, on August 26, 1993, Ohio University attempted to improve its brand equity when it...Read more

Steve M. McKelvey

The emphasis on licensing as a source of revenue for sport organizations, coupled with the creativity of sport marketers and their fans, serves to highlight the importance of securing trademark protection for unique slogans and nicknames that emerge in connection with a particular sport organization. Perhaps one of the most well-known of these team-related fan groups is the Cleveland Browns’ “Dawg Pound,” a phrase used since the early 1980s to describe the enthusiastic Browns fans who dressed up (and woofed) like dogs. Members of the “Dawg Pound” sat together in the bleachers of the old...Read more

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