Johnny Manziel, also known as “Johnny Football” took the college football world by storm In 2012. The Texas A&M quarterback was the first ever redshirt freshman to win the coveted Heisman Trophy award for the most outstanding player in collegiate football. He is projected to be a first-round draft pick when he decides to enter the NFL draft.
Manziel was given the nickname “Johnny Football” by Texas A&M fans prior to the 2012 season. And although the NCAA prohibits college athletes to make money while in school, there is little doubt that “Johnny Football” has big potential to become a money-making brand after Manziel is through with his college football career. But just as Manziel heads into his sophomore year with the Texas A&M Aggies the “Johnny Football” nickname has become a legal issue.
In February, Manziel’s corporation, JMAN2 Enterprises, filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against a Texas man for using the “Johnny Football” nickname. Eric Vaughn has been selling t-shirts with the phrase “Keep Calm and Johnny Football” on them.
Manzeil is asking the court for an injunction on further sales of the t-shirts. He is also suing for damages for unlawful sale of goods, along with exemplary damages, and attorney and court costs.
Manziel didn’t register his trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office until February 2nd, after the t-shirts were already being sold. However, it is not required that a trademark be registered in order to receive protection under trademark law, BUT it’s a good idea.
While trademark registration is not legally necessary to claim trademark infringement, it does have substantial benefits, one of which is that it makes it easy for others to find in a trademark availability search. Whether or not that would have prevented someone from using “Johnny Football” – who knows?
As always, it’s wise to consult with a trademark attorney before you attempt to file an application—unless you know what you are doing. Do it now, don’t wait.
Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join the conversation on my Facebook Fan Page, on Twitter, in one of my LinkedIn groups.