IP in the NFL: “I’m Just Here So I Won’t Get Fined,” or Are You?
February 27 2015
Just last week, on February 18, 2015, Seattle Seahawks superstar running back Marshawn Lynch (“Lynch”), also known as Beast Mode, filed for a federal trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) for his now famous quote—“I’M JUST HERE SO I WON’T GET FINED.” For those of you who are not big NFL fans, Lynch coined his now signature phrase during the Super Bowl XLIX Media Day. This did not come as a huge shock to most NFL fans because Lynch has developed a reputation for avoiding the media and refusing to fulfill the media obligations of one of the league’s brightest superstars. However, in the face of the NFL’s threat of a $50,000 fine if he refused to participate in Super Bowl XLIX Media Day, Lynch decided to play ball. In response to over 20 proffered questions, Lynch simply responded, “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.”
This caused quite the outrage from the media and certain sports fans—mostly 49er fans (we all know how they adore the Seahawks), who found Lynch’s conduct unprofessional and disrespectful. But, say what you will about Lynch’s unprofessional conduct and disregard for his obligations as an NFL superstar, the fact is the man knows how to exploit and protect his own intellectual property. Financially speaking, Lynch maximized the utility of the situation by coining a signature phrase and getting it out to millions of viewers during media week. In fact, a renowned sponsorship evaluation firm calculated the value of the total exposure for Lynch’s clothing line during his Super Bowl XLIX appearances to be more than $3 million in equivalent advertising time. Not only that, he prudently followed up by filing a federal trademark application for the mark with the USPTO. Now, this did not strike me as the conduct of an IP novice, so I decided to investigate the matter further. My research revealed my intuition to be true—this was not, as the saying goes, Lynch’s first rodeo.
It turns out that Lynch is the proud owner of several other trademarks. Just last year, Lynch trademarked ABOUT THAT ACTION BOSS after he uttered the phrase to “Prime Time” Deion Sanders of the NFL Network during the lone interview that he did during Super Bowl XVLVIII Media Day. ABOUT THAT ACTION BOSS has been reviewed by the USPTO and will be published in the latter part of March. In addition to the aforementioned mark, Lynch owns four separate BEAST MODE marks and filed for four more. Lynch’s BEAST MODE marks apply to a variety of products ranging from energy drinks to earbuds and sports apparel. Interestingly, these BEAST MODE registrations all include a section for “[O]ther data” where Lynch’s attorneys have included the following: “The name ‘BEAST MODE’ identifies a living individual whose consent is of record.” I find this addition to the registrations even more intriguing in light of the fact that the marks could have been obtained without including such information. Although I cannot be certain, I would be willing to wager that Mr. Lynch, BEAST MODE himself, insisted on its inclusion.
Whatever your personal opinion of BEAST MODE, one thing is clear—he is far more business savy than the media and average sports fan give him credit for. Although Lynch is media-averse, he efficiently maximized his exposure for commercial gain. Unlike the masses of superstars who squander their fortunes and/or fail to develop alternative revenue streams outside of athletics, Lynch exploited the goodwill in his signature phrases and nickname to create what I can only assume is a lucrative side business. If you’re interested, check out the clothing line at http://www.beastmodeonline.com. Otherwise, be sure to stay tuned to the IP Blog and we will keep you apprised of any developments regarding the mark I’M JUST HERE SO I WON’T GET FINED.