The NCAA won’t let a student-athlete make money on his or her likeness, but there’s no rule against protecting them.
Like their counterparts in the pros, more college football stars are starting to snatch up trademark rights to their names, nicknames and fan slogans.
The NCAA generally forbids its players from cashing in on their athletic success, but by gaining legal ownership of phrases tied to their personal brands, players can pave the way for lucrative licensing deals in the future and can prevent others from exploiting their names.
This month, Ohio State University running back Ezekiel Elliott applied for trademarks to use his nicknames “Zeke” and “Eze” on merchandise, according to records in a public database kept by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Elliott also filed for a trademark on the restaurant name “Zeke’s Crop Top Bar and Grill,” a nod to the junior’s preference to roll his jersey up like a crop top. Elliott was unavailable for comment, and his father declined to explain the trademarks.
At Mississippi State University, quarterback Dak Prescott applied for the trademark on his name last fall, along with “Dak Attack” and “Who Dak,” phrases that fans have waved aloft on game-day signs.
It’s unclear to me where this is headed. Obviously, it could mean more in a post-O’Bannon world, but we’re not there yet. The article mentions that some schools have begun suggesting that their star athletes take steps to protect their names. There’s also this:
Many universities, meanwhile, have stopped selling jerseys with the numbers of current players, in part because of legal concerns.
Hilbert predicts that, as universities shine the spotlight away from individual athletes, more players will step in to take ownership of their own brands.
“It’s a gradual move toward commercializing the sport,” Hilbert said. “As the demarcation between amateurism and professionalism further erodes, you’re going to see these guys get even more savvy about branding matters.”
It makes you wonder if we’ll see a day when a star athlete takes steps to preclude his school (or the NCAA) from using his name or likeness in a promotion.