Sports stars seek profit from catchphrases, nicknames, epithets
Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis shut down so many receivers last season that teammates started calling his turf Revis Island, where opposing players were inevitably marooned.
By last December, Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco was boasting on Twitter that he would be an “escape inmate gone wild on Revis Island.” (He was not, and left the game with a knee injury.) Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg jokingly renamed Manhattan Revis Island in January when the Jets reached the American Football Conference championship game.
But even as the term became a part of Jets lexicon — spawning T-shirts, a fan blog and a commercial for Dick’s Sporting Goods — Revis was quietly laying claim to it. In January, he applied to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to register the term for use on “T-shirts, sweatshirts, sweat pants, hats, footwear, sleepwear, swimwear.”
Revis is among a number of athletes who are seeking federal trademark protection for their names, nicknames and even their catchphrases. The slogans come in all varieties: trash-talking (“Stomp You Out,” claimed by the former Giants defensive end Michael Strahan), self-aggrandizing (“I Love Me Some Me,” registered by Bengals wide receiver Terrell Owens), self-deprecating (“Manny Being Manny,” claimed, and later abandoned, by the baseball slugger Manny Ramirez), and just plain weird (“Got Strange?” registered by Vikings defensive end Jared Allen).
Trademarking nicknames and phrases is not new — Pat Riley obtained a trademark for the term “three-peat” in 1989, when he coached the Los Angeles Lakers — but lawyers who handle intellectual property rights say the practice has accelerated in recent years as athletes and sports figures seek to extend their brands into the entertainment world. The federal trademark office does not keep statistics on the professional athletes who file for protection, nor does the International Trademark Association, which represents owners.