I certainly do not understand the full impact of the judge’s decision late Friday in the case by Ed O’Bannon against the NCAA. If players now have more control over the names (and images and likenesses) and a right to profit from them, it seems to me that they might be able to file trademarks to protect those names. Why is that important? Because when they don’t file trademark applications others often do in their place. And that makes it more complicated and more expensive for the player’s to protect their brands and to resolve the disputes that are created by the third-party trademark filings.
For example, at least one trademark application sought to protect JOHNNY FOOTBALL in reference to Johnny Manziel while he was still playing in college. The first application for JOHNNY FOOTBALL at the USPTO, filed by Kenneth R. Reynolds Family Investments, LP in October of 2012. In October 2013, someone filed a USPTO application for “Famous Jameis,” a reference to the eventual Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston.
The recent court ruling (certainly it will be appealed) could open the door for college athletes that are stars and brands to file for trademark registration with the USPTO to provide proper protection for those brands.