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Firm's 'Johnny Football' Trademark Filing Rejected

By Brett Snider, Esq. on March 24, 2014 1:58 PM

A battle over the "Johnny Football" trademark was lost by a Texas-based investment firm, which hoped to poach the mark from Texas A&M's star quarterback Johnny Manziel.

The Kenneth R. Reynolds Family Investments' trademark registration was rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, with the reviewing attorney writing that "Johnny Football" referred to a "particular living individual," reports ESPN. That individual is apparently Johnny Manziel, and the firm may not be able to obtain a trademark without Manziel's permission.

Manziel has his own trademark for "Johnny Football" pending, but who will win out?

Registering a Trademark

Businesses like Reynolds Family Investments have the right to apply for trademarks with the federal government, even if they may happen to be fictional names like "Johnny Football." A proper trademark applicant will have already searched the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database to see if the potential trademark is already registered.

In the case of "Johnny Football," there are only two pending claims to the trademark: Manziel's and Reynolds Family Investments'. A prior company held the "Johnny Football" trademark for an interactive "Johnny Football Bot" toy, but it was abandoned in 2002.

The two competing trademark applications claim rights to market "Johnny Football" via video games, athletic apparel, and footballs, but they differ on one thing: "Johnny Football" refers to a living human person. That issue is a problem for the investment firm, since the USPTO can and will refuse applications which are likely to confuse consumers as to the source of the goods identified by "Johnny Football."

According to ESPN, the USPTO attorney who rejected the investment firm's trademark application attached articles referring to the Texas A&M quarterback as "Johnny Football" -- like this one.

'Johnny Football' Trademark War Not Over Yet

This isn't the end for Reynolds Family Investments' "Johnny Football" trademark dreams. The firm has six months to appeal to the USPTO's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, where it can argue that "Johnny Football" is somehow distinct enough from the living Manziel to allow the trademark without his permission.

Meanwhile, Manziel's filing for the same "Johnny Football" trademark has been put on hold pending the resolution of the competing trademark's case. It may be a few months before anyone can sell legally trademarked "Johnny Football" merchandise to Aggies.

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