Hockey Player Feels The Streisand Effect After Trying To Defensively Trademark His Nickname

from the oops dept

It’s been 10 years since the coining of the term “The Streisand Effect”, but it still seems like a concept that eludes many public figures. With trademarks in particular, I just can’t seem to figure out how people are surprised when public backlash slams a public figure attempting to control language. Yet, surprise appears to be in play in the story of a young NHL rookie hockey player who tried to trademark a nickname he’d been given because his agent didn’t like how it was being used.

When Johnny Gaudreau’s agent noticed the eye-catching slogan — “Johnny (Effin’) Hockey” — he went to work, applying for “Johnny Hockey” trademarks with patent offices in Canada and the United States. Understandably, this garment is not something Lewis Gross wanted associated with his client, a hotshot rookie with the Calgary Flames.

“There were a couple shirts, a couple things, that were derogatory,” Craig Conroy — assistant general manager of the Flames, who was represented by Gross during his playing days — said Wednesday at the Saddledome. “Lewis said, ‘We just want to make sure we monitor it.’ And that’s all it was. More than anything, it was to make sure that people weren’t selling stuff that made him look bad. I mean, I think that’s what it came down to.”

Look, I get it, to some degree. Here you are, a young athlete, and someone gives you a nickname that’s a derivative of “Johnny Football”, which was coined to describe Johnny Manziel in the NFL. And he has a certain infamous party reputation. A young hockey player might not want to be associated with that reputation, even if it is only a couple of shirts and items that are derogatory. The problem with going the trademark application route is now this association is cemented everywhere through the exposure of the backlash.

Unfavourable comparisons to rabble-rousing quarterback Johnny Manziel — himself in the process of trademarking Johnny Football and Johnny Cleveland — popped up via social media.

“I talked to Lewis,” said Conroy, “and he was shocked at how big a story it had become in Canada. Johnny doesn’t want anyone to think that he’s bigger than anything. He’s just a player on the team and (the nickname) is just something that happened at Boston College. More than anything (Gaudreau) was just embarrassed by all the attention it got. He just wanted to keep it low key and pretend it didn’t even happen. I said, ‘Well, it did happen, so now just deal with it.’ ”

That’s about as classic Streisand Effect as it gets, with a little trademark thrown in, apparently in an attempt to make this an early contender for 2015’s most Techdirt-y story. A small annoyance was the genesis for a heavy-handed attempt to lock up language through intellectual property. The result was that the small annoyance became a huge annoyance and the exact opposite of the intended effect occurred. Textbook case, I think. Hopefully it’s a lesson learned for the young man who can get back to concentrating on his profession and not let a little nickname bother him so much in the future.

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