I’m Just Writing This So I Won’t Get Fined
If you follow the NFL, or just couldn’t avoid the riveting extravaganza leading up to the Superbowl known as media day, you may have heard about Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch answering reporters’ questions with the response, “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.” His insistence on repeating the phrase was in response to the league hitting him with a $100,000 penalty for refusing to participate in media day the year before. Lynch used the phrase roughly 27 times during media day, and now, like anyone eager to cash in on something that goes viral for fifteen minutes, has filed a trademark application with the USPTO to register the terse response as his intellectual property.
Marshawn Lynch is no stranger to trademarks, having successfully registered several marks related to his “Beast Mode” brand, and it’s likely he won’t have any problems getting trademark protection for his latest catchphrase. In addition to names, words, symbols, and product designs, an individual or legal entity can register a trademark for a slogan as long as the expression serves to identify a particular product or company in a manner that distinguishes it from all others. Basically Lynch and his attorneys just have to show that people identify the phrase with Lynch and that it is being used in commerce, which could be accomplished by selling t-shirts or hats featuring the quote.
Increasingly, athletes across all sports are regarding their nicknames, catchphrases, and even gestures as part of their brand and are securing rights in their use. Think of any sports craze or viral quote, and chances are there is a trademark attached, or at least an application pending. Remember “Linsanity”? What about “Tebowing”? Do you think Bryce Harper has registered trademarks? “That’s a clown question, bro.”