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.

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Protecting Your Brand

Branding is key in maintaining a loyal fan base, gaining new listeners and ensuring longevity in all aspects of the music industry.  As such, protecting one’s brand is just as important as branding itself.  Artists and music entities can use various federal and state laws to protect their brands. Here are just a few:

Trademark/Service Mark – A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design used to identify and distinguish the source of a good.  A service mark is just like a trademark, but instead identifies the source a service.  The symbol  and  are used to identify an unregistered trademark or service mark, respectively, and ® identifies a federally registered trademark.

Although registration is not required, there are many benefits to registration; such as having a public notice of ownership, a presumption of ownership, the ability to bring a trademark claim in federal court, and international protections.

Copyrights – A copyright provides exclusive rights to the author of an original work of authorship, and extends to literary, musical, dramatic, artistic and other forms of intellectual work.  The symbol © is often used to notify the public of a copyright, but this notification is no longer mandatory.

Like trademarks and service marks, the owner of a copyright is not required to register the copyright, but registration provides the owner with a number of advantages.

Defamation – Defamation is a cause of action that arises when a person makes a false statement about another, which subsequently causes harm.  Classifications of defamation are (1) slander – an oral representation, and (2) libel – a fixed representation, such as a comment made in writing.

Some harmful comments are not considered defamatory, such as statements of truth, opinion, and fair comment on issues of public interest.

Misappropriation – Misappropriation is the intentional and unauthorized use of property or funds belonging to others.  This cause of action extends to the unauthorized use of intellectual property, as well as the unauthorized use of a person’s name, likeness and other personal attributes.

Moral Rights – Moral rights refers to a creator’s right to control his or her work.  This protects the reputation of a creator, rather than the value of the work.  Moral rights are generally not protected in the United States, but protection can sometimes be loosely granted under copyright, trademark, privacy and defamation laws.

Right of Publicity – The right of publicity protects persons from the unauthorized use of one’s name, likeness or personal attributes for commercial purposes.  This rights gives a person the sole right to license his or her persona commercially.

Right of publicity is generally found under state law, and is often classified as a right of privacy.

False Endorsement – False endorsement is a claim under federal trademark laws, which protects a trademark owner from the unauthorized use of his or her mark to show sponsorship or endorsement.