Tom Brady Fails To Trademark 'Tom Terrific' As USPTO Rightly Assesses He's Not The Most Terrific Tom

from the tom-boy dept

Earler this summer, we discussed Tom Brady, famed Patriots quarterback and winner of many games, deciding to apply for a trademark on a nickname some fans had given him: Tom Terrific. In news you’ll never believe, it appeared that Brady didn’t really have any idea how trademark law works. As evidence for that, Brady claimed to want the trademark because he hates the nickname and wanted to stop others from using it. That’s not how trademark law works. Instead, to have a valid trademark, Brady would have to use the term himself in commerce, meaning that more people would hear his unwanted nickname in doing so.

But that wasn’t the only problem. See, Tom Terrific is a well-known nickname… of Tom Seaver, the famed NY Mets pitcher. The Hall of Fame pitcher popularized the nickname in sports. Hell, I’m in my 30s and I know Tom Terrific = Tom Seaver.

And so do the folks at the USPTO, apparently, as they rejected Brady’s application on the grounds that he would mislead others into thinking he was somehow associated with Tom Seaver.

The office refused the request made by the six-time Super Bowl champion Thursday because of the phrase’s association with another famous athlete: “The applied-for mark consists of or includes matter which may falsely suggest a connection with Tom Seaver,” the office said.

Seaver, an MLB Hall of Fame pitcher, was given the nickname long before Brady ever stepped on a football field. Seaver, who played professionally from 1967 to 1986, was the star of the “Miracle Mets” 1969 World Series championship team.

Now, trust me, I know exactly what you’re thinking: “Wait, the Mets actually won a World Series at some point?” The answer to that is yes! And, in a rare bout of sanity, the Trademark Office recognized that the fame built up around Seaver, especially given his and his team’s success, which then translated into the fame of his nickname, meant that Tom Brady’s requested trademark was both silly and potentially confusing. Keep in mind that use of the trademark on clothing wouldn’t necessarily carry Brady’s well-known face along with it.

According to USPTO, the nickname “points uniquely and unmistakably to Tom Seaver,” not Brady. It also said the trademark could lead fans to believe that Seaver endorses any product sold with the nickname.

Sorry, Tom. You’re just not terrific enough to sneak this one past the USPTO.

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Comments on “Tom Brady Fails To Trademark 'Tom Terrific' As USPTO Rightly Assesses He's Not The Most Terrific Tom”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Mission achieved

To be charitable, Tom Brady may understand precisely how trademark works. By applying, and "losing", he has had the USPTO say that people associating Tom Terrific with him are causing confusion with Tom Seaver, thereby opening the way for Tom Seaver to shut down all the people who want to associate Tom Terrific with Tom Brady. This lets Tom Brady have the USPTO and Tom Seaver do the dirty work he was after in the first place.

And yes, it is still not how trademarks are supposed to work.

Thad says:

Re: What about the captain?

I’d think that this usage would have precedence over all the newcomers.

Trademarks are market-specific. A trademark for a cartoon generally wouldn’t affect someone else’s ability to use the same mark for sports merchandise.

Besides which point, trademarks lapse when they’re not used. (That’s why Marvel now owns the names "Captain Marvel", "Daredevil", and "Black Widow", even though other publishers had superheroes with those names back in the 1940s. Those other publishers went out of business, the trademarks lapsed, and Marvel snatched them up.) Whoever owns the Terrytoons library these days sure isn’t releasing Tom Terrific DVDs or T-shirts. I think they’d have a hard time defending the mark if someone else were to try to register it for animation.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: What about the captain?

Mods, if you’re reading, I think I have a reply to this post in the moderation queue?

tl;dr trademarks are market-specific and the Tom Terrific trademark for animation would probably not have any impact on anyone’s ability to trademark the same name for sports merchandise — even if it were still in effect, which it almost certainly isn’t; whoever owns the old TerryToons library isn’t releasing Tom Terrific DVDs or T-shirts or anything at all, so the original trademark is very probably long dead.

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