Trademark Law – Can Jeremy Lin trademark Linsanity?

You knew there had to be a business angle to the feel-good sports story that is Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks, so over the past week we have seen dueling trademark applications for the catch-phrase, Linsanity, by two California dreamers and the man himself, Jeremy Lin (Lin’s trademark application can be seen here).

Lin’s trademark opponents are Andrew Slayton (who coached at Jeremy Lin’s high school, but did not, as has been widely reported, actually coach Jeremy Lin) and Yenchin Chang (who lives in Los Angeles County and appears to work in import/export).  Their applications to trademark Linsanity can be seen here and here.

Trademark law prohibits the registration of marks containing not only full names, but also surnames, shortened names, and nicknames if the name in question “identifies” a particular living individual without getting their written consent.  Protection is given to those famous enough that the public would reasonably assume the connection with the requested mark and the celebrity, or if the person is publicly connected with the business in which the mark is being used.  This means that even if the celebrity is not in the business of selling his stuff, others can be barred from cashing in on the celebrity’s fame.

Given that, it’s hard to see how Slayton and Chang will be able to get their registrations approved.  This is very similar to the Charlie Sheen trademark gold rush we blogged about last year (most if not all of those trademarks have since been rejected or abandoned, including those filed by Sheen himself).  We are not aware of any business actually conducted by Chang.

Jeremy Lin’s offensive seems to be working, as of the afternoon of February 19, Slayton’s website was no longer selling goods and now appears to be a Linsanity portal site that accepts advertising.

As for Jeremy Lin, it is our understanding the NBA and the Knicks have the contractual right to sell Jeremy Lin-related goods (the Knicks are selling their own Linsanity merchandise) with a share of the revenue going back to the players, but Lin should be in the best position to claim trademark rights in Linsanity.

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