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"Tebowing" and Other Celebrity Trademarks


By: Jim Dossey, MS, MBA, JD

According to Wikipedia, a trademark is a “recognizable sign, design or expression which identifies products or services of a particular source from those of others.” Trademarks are valuable assets to individuals and business, helping to capture value inherent in a brand.

Many celebrities have learned to profit from their catch phrases by obtaining trademarks. Here are just a few:

  • Tim Tebow - “tebowing”
  • Paris Hilton – “That’s hot”
  • Ryan Lochte – “Jeah.”
  • Beyonce and Jay-Z – “Blue Ivy”
  • Michael Buffer – “Let’s get ready to rumble!”
  • Jeremy Lin – “Linsanity”
  • Emeril Lagasse – “Bam!”
  • Nadya Suleman – “OctoMom”
  • Curtis Jackson – “50 Cent”

There are three basic ways to get a trademark:

  1. Common Law – You can think of “common law” as a way to have a trademark without having to go through the registration process. Once names for products or businesses are used in commerce, the “common law” trademark is in effect. You will need to use the “TM” symbol anytime you use the name. The problem with “common law” trademarks are that they are geographically bound. “Common Law” trademarks are free and do provide some protection, but you will have to go to court to establish your priority over the mark if the need should occur.
  2. State Trademarks – In Texas, state trademarks are about $50 in filing fees per trademark and provide more protection than the “common law” trademarks. The state has a searchable database that will show the state trademarks in use. However, trademark protection for state trademarks is limited geographically to that particular state.
  3. Federal Trademarks – The federal trademarks are much more expensive (about $400 each in filing fees), but they provide the maximum protection. Anyone can search the national trademark database and see that the trademark is in use. If you plan to conduct interstate commerce, it is probably advisable to get a federal trademark. Note also that the process for obtaining a Federal Trademark is much more extensive, rigorous, and time consuming than a state trademark, so the legal fees will also be significantly more.
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