Marshawn Lynch to Trademark Catchphrase

Word of Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch’s trademark application for the phrase, “I’m just here so I won’t get fired,” is drawing the attention of sports fans and IP nerds alike.

ESPN reported that Lynch filed trademark papers with the U.S Patent and Trademark Office last week to protect his – now – classic phrase. For those not privy to sports news, Lynch is known for his aversion towards interviews with the media, and he recited this phrase in response to over 20 questions during the SuperBowl XLIX press day. Earlier in the football season, the NFL fined Lynch $50K for avoiding the media.

Lynch is not the first celebrity to trademark a catchphrase or other quotables. Trademarking allows celebrities to use catchphrases for commercial purposes, along with other legal and business reasons.

Notable trademarking endeavors include Paris Hilton’s, “That’s Hot;” boxing announcer Michael Bugger’s “Let’s get to rumble;” Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte’s, “Jeah;” and, of course, Donald Trump’s “You’re fired.”

So what is a trademark? The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office defines a trademark as:

A trademark is a brand name. A trademark or service mark includes any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used or intended to be used to identify and distinguish the goods/services of one seller or provider from those of others, and to indicate the source of the goods/services.

For more information about Trademarks, check out the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Basics webpage.

Entertainment & Sports Biz News Roundup

The entertainment and sports industries were busy during the first few weeks of February:

Agency News:

The agency world hit the news when, as reported by The Hollywood ReporterUTA won its motion to dismiss a lawsuit for breach of an implied contract over the movie “The Purge.” UTA again made the news, alongside ICM, as boutique talent agency Lenhoff & Lenhoff sued the two agencies for violating antitrust law, claiming that the Big 4 monopolized the television market, becoming predatory.

Music News:

With the increase of music festivals popping up across the country, it was only a matter of time until they hit the news. Country music duo Florida Georgia Line is having troubles arising over last summer’s Country Explosion. Billboard reports FGL’s tangle up in a breach of contract and defamation suit with Country Explosion ownership.

Bob Marley’s heirs are celebrating a victory as the 9th Court of Appeals affirm a ruling for the family who sued merchandisers for the unauthorized use of Marley’s image. Several of the ladies in En Vouge are facing their own legal troubles, as Rufftown Entertainment sued two of the original members for over $300M for violating an exclusive recording contract.

Although the music industry has seen its share of legal turmoil and profit spirals, UMG Chairman Lucian Grainge is hopeful in the future of music. Mr. Grainge spoke of future growth at last week’s Code Media conference.

Sports News:

Sports Business Daily reports the possibility of a settlement between the NFL and American Needle over their longstanding licensing lawsuit. In other sports news, Biogenesis faux-doctor Bosch received a four-year sentence in federal prison for running an illegal clinic and supplying illegal substances to MLB players and high school athletes.

The Oakland Raiders prevailed in the age-discrimination suit brought by two former scouts, who claimed that their dismissal had discriminatory intent. The Raiders hit the news again when the franchise, along with the San Diego Chargers, announced the potential to build and share a stadium in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson.

Speech and the Spotlight: A Question about Mr. Sterling and Free Speech

In looking for an opportune moment to get back into blogging, a conversation with a non-lawyer friend about the recent controversy surrounding the NBA and Los Angeles Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling’s alleged racist remarks provided an interesting topic of discussion.

I was recently invited into a conversation for input about freedom of speech rights for high-profile individuals being disciplined by sports and entertainment organizations for offensive comments made publicly and privately. The First Amendment restricts the government from censoring expression due to content, message, and/or idea. Of course exclusions apply to protect and promote public safety, but the First Amendment does not come into play in Mr. Sterling’s situation.

The First Amendment applies to the government, not private actors – in this case the NBA. States can grant broader rights to citizens that extend to private actors, but this is generally limited to private property that is open to the public.

The NBA, a private actor, is able to create regulations and sanctions to combat speech that is detrimental to the organization.

Other sports and entertainment organizations have taken steps to prevent any seemingly detrimental discriminatory practices. For example, the NFL implemented the Rooney Rule, named after Pittsburgh Steelers’ owner and the league’s diversity committee chair, Don Rooney.

Under the Rooney Rule, teams must interview at least one minority candidate for head coach positions, otherwise the team must pay a fine. The NFL created the Rooney Rule to address the lack of diversity among head coaches and senior staff. The rule allows teams to hire their choice candidate but provides qualified, diverse candidates the opportunity to interview for senior level positions.

For more information about the NBA/Sterling situation, read the NBA’s official press release.

…And Then There is the New Year!

As we prepare to bring in the New Year, I am open to feedback as to ways to improve my blog, topics of interest or concern, and any other comments or questions that you want to pass on.  Please fill out the form below if you have any input that you would like for me to receive in confidence.

Cheers, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Music and Politics Series: When Politicians Attack

Music and politics often go hand-in-hand. Since the beginning of time, musicians have been voicing their concerns musically; lending voice to a public who may otherwise go unheard. It’s no wonder that the main focus of music and political discourse generally focuses on songs of protest. Despite the many musicians who gained local and worldwide fame because of their politically and socially charged lyrics, little attention is paid to the musicians who have suffered political backlash because of their artistry. Although the list of musicians who have been blacklisted is potentially endless, here are a few musicians who risked their lives to speak out against political injustices:

 

  • John Lennon, the former Beatle, was subject to political backlash in 1972. Under the Nixon Administration’s “strategic counter-measure” against Lennon’s anti-war activities, the administration began a four year plot to deport the singer. The measure began as the singer applied for – but was subsequently denied – permanent residency in the US. The immigration battle ended in 1975, after 281 pages of files from the US government were discovered. The files revealed that Lennon’s immigration status was being undermined by government officials conspiring to deport and silence the singer.
  • Fela Kuti, a Nigerian singer, was arrested in 1984 for currency smuggling by Major General Muhammadu Buhari’s government. Amnesty International denounced the arrest, saying it was politically motivated, and Kuti was released 20 months later.
  •   Gilberto Vil and Caetarno Veloso, Brazilian guitarists and singers, were arrested in early 1969 after televising a satirical version of the Brazilian national anthem in December 1968. They were arrested by the Brazilian military government, but were not told their charges. The musicians spent three months in prison and four months under house arrest. They were freed after agreeing to leave the country; the singers thereafter lived in exile in London, England.
  • Kurt Weill, German-Jewish composer, left Germany in 1933. The composer lived in exile in Paris, London and ultimately New York. Weill was a notable composer in Germany, but was denounced for his socialist views and populist sentiments. Prior to fleeing the country, Nazi authorities criticized his work and interfered with his stage performances.
  • Tashi Dhondup, a Tibetan singer, was arrested at gunpoint by four police officers, in 2008, for releasing songs with counter revolutionary content and for lyrics abut the suffering of Tibetans under Chinese rule. Following the arrest, the singer lived in hiding in the Xinig, Qinghad province after his album was banned. In December 2009, he was arrested again for releasing an album containing “subversive songs”. In January 2010, he was sentenced to 15 months of reeducation through labor. The singer was released from a hard labor camp in February 2011.
  • The Blue Notes, a mixed race South African music group made up of Dudu Pukana, Chris McGregor, Mongezi Feza, Nickele Moyake, Johnny Dyani and Louis Mohol. As mixed race groups were illegal under apartheid regimes, the group suffered harassment by authorities. The group eventually moved to Europe in 1964 to avoid harassment.