POSTED BY Phil Kachajian
It’s been an eventful few weeks for the New England Patriots, between their amazing Super Bowl victory and the ongoing investigation over the so-called “Deflategate” allegations (which this blogger knows to be completely unfounded and ridiculous). However, in the wake of all the media surrounding the team lately, some other meaningful developments concerning the Patriots have been more or less overlooked. One of these developments concerns one of the key players in the Patriots’ offense, star running-back LeGarrette Blount. Blount signed with the Patriots during the middle of last season and almost instantly became one of the team’s main offensive weapons, due to his uncanny ability to charge right through the heart of any defense, regardless of how many opposing players stood in his way. This battering ram-like quality earned Blount the moniker, “Blount Force Trauma,” which began appearing on clothing all over New England shortly after Blount’s incredible performance during his initial season with the Pats. Following the Patriots loss to the Denver Broncos during last season’s AFC Championship Game, Blount was released by the Patriots and signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Blount spent part of the next season with the Steelers before being released once again, and luckily for Patriots fans everywhere, he found his way back to New England. After being resigned by the Patriots, Blount immediately picked up where he’d left off on offense, spearheading the Patriots’ overwhelming 45-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts during this season’s AFC Championship Game. Blount’s fantastic performance, combined with the Patriots’ recent Super Bowl victory, has pushed his already substantial fame to even greater heights, causing sales of clothing bearing his signature catchphrase to skyrocket. In response to his newly increased marketability, Blount has recently applied for a Trademark on the name, “Blount Force Trauma,” in order to make money off the royalties garnered from sales of clothing with his name on it.
Blount’s status as a household name is hardly a first in the world of professional sports, especially within the NFL. Several players have names or phrases associated with themselves that have begun to appear on clothing and memorabilia across the country. The Patriots themselves have generated several famous nick names and catchphrases, such as; “TB12,” “Minitron,” “The Law Firm,” “Air Wilfork,” “On to Cincinnati,” and “Revis Island,” just to name a few. However, it appears that due to a combination of ignorance of trademark law and lack of competent advice from counsel and others associated with professional football teams, very few players actually have the presence of mind to try and license the catchphrases associated with themselves, and as a result often miss out on a great deal of royalty money generated by websites and sports stores that sell clothing and memorabilia adorned with words derived from their names and likenesses.
This culture of ignorance however, is finally beginning to change, as more and more players turn to trademarking their names in order to cash in on the sales of goods bearing their names and likenesses. Leading the charge, as he usually does on the field, is LeGarrette Blount, who sells gear with his name on it through an online store called Athlete Originals. In an article on the popular Patriots blog, Patspulpit, attorney Darren Heitner spoke of his recent collaboration with the star athlete in order to ensure that Blount was receiving the royalty checks he rightly deserves. Heitner is the owner of Heitner Legal, a law firm that specializes in Intellectual Property law, and that has advocated for several professional athletes in the past in various aspects of sports related law. Heitner’s firm was responsible for filing the trademark application for “Blount Force Trauma,” ensuring that Blount will continue to receive a paycheck long after he retires from pro football.
Despite Blount’s personal success in trademarking his name and likeness, Heitner believes that this is only a small victory in the face of a much larger problem. Heitner explained the issue on Patspulpit, lamenting the fact that the vast majority of professional athletes simply do not know enough about trademark law to know when they should seek legal protection for their names and likenesses, or to realize when there is real money to be made from royalties. Without some sort of institutionalized system of trademark education for professional athletes, or the implantation of league-wide protections for football players, it is more than likely that the problem will never be resolved. If the status quo stays unchanged, players like Blount will remain the minority in ensuring that their intellectual property is protected from exploitation from third party retailers. Despite the currently bleak state of trademark protections in professional sports, one can take solace in the fact that at least Blount is now protected, ensuring that for years to come, those royalty checks will keep the Blount rollin’.