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College Athletes in Business - What is a Trademark?

Written by Kassandra Ramsey, Esq.

· College basketball,College Football,College Athlete NIL,Trademarks,Name Image Likeness

College athletes are working hard to position themselves to get the most out their new name, image, and likeness (NIL) opportunities. College athletes are building brands and starting businesses. As college athletes engage in their entrepreneurial endeavors there are certain steps that college athletes should take to protect their brands and businesses. One of those steps is obtaining federal trademark protection for their business and brand.  As a college athlete in business, an athlete should consider obtaining federal trademark protection for any slogans, nicknames, or catchphrases they may have. However, before seeking federal trademark protection the college athlete should understand what a trademark is. 

What is a Trademark?

A trademark can be any word, phrase, symbol, design, or a combination of these things that identifies a p business' goods and/or services. One of the best examples of the myriad of things that can receive federal trademark protection can be seen through the shoe behemoth  NIKE. Nike has several federal trademark registrations. NIKE has a federal trademark registration for the company name "NIKE."

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Additionally, Nike has a federal trademark registration for the swoosh (the check) logo.  Similarly, Nike has a federal trademark registration for their slogan "Just Do It."

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Additionally, Nike has federal trademark registration for perhaps the most revolutionary sneaker brand, the "Air Jordan." 

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Nike also owns the trademark for the "Air Jordan" silhouette. 

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The purpose of a trademark is to serve as a source identifier for consumers. Trademarks help consumers have confidence that the product or service they think they are buying is in fact what they think they are buying. For example, when a costumer see's the Air Jordan silhouette on a pair of shoes, the costumer expects to be purchasing an Air Jordan shoe. The customer also expects the shoes be of a certain quality.  Accordingly, Nike's federal trademark registrations assist  Nike in providing that assurance to their customers

How Nike Protects its Brand

Nike works hard to protect its brand and their federal trademark registrations gives Nike the ammunition it needs to do so. Earlier this year, consumers saw Nike stop at nothing to protect its brand when entertainer Lil Nas X's attempted to sale the "Satan Shoes." The "Satan Shoes" were a customized version of the Nike Air Max 97 sneakers. The shoes were customized by the New York based art collective MSCHF.  The midsoles of the shoe were said to contain a drop of human blood. Nike quickly obtained an injunction stopping the sale of the shoes by arguing  that the sale of the shoes would damage the company's brand. Nike argued that consumers may believe that the Nike released the controversial shoes. Due to the steps that Nike has taken to protect and defend its brand, the company was able to stop the sale of the shoes.

Federal Trademark Protection Can Help College Athletes Protect Their Brands

Acquiring federal trademark protection can help college athletes  protect their brands. If you are college atheltes or know of a college who has questions regarding trademarks contact me to see how I can assist.  


For more information on how to prepare for NIL opportunities download my free e-book "A College Athlete's Guide to Preparing for Name, Image, and Likeness." Also, for more on college athletes' name, image, and likeness rights follow me on Twitter @esquire_coach and on Instagram @the_esquirecoach. To receive updates from The Esquire Coach Blog directly to your email please subscribe below.