US Women's Gymnastics Team Decides Self-Chosen Nickname 'Fierce Five' Needs Trademark Protection

from the because,-these-days,-NOT-filing-is-never-an-option dept

Is anyone else out there excited to hear about athletes trademarking nicknames? Anyone? Or is it just another one of those things that seems to go hand-in-hand with buying defensive patents by the bucket-load and fending off onerous members of artists' estates? These IP land grabs seem to be a sign of the times, a brave new world of preemptive protectionism that leads people to believe that they have to quickly lock down everything pertaining to them, even if it's a spur of the moment nickname handed out by an enthusiastic sportscaster.

From the (L)insanity of last year to the trademarked unibrow of a few months ago, athletes are seemingly becoming their own marketing force, rushing off to the trademark office in order to nail down rights to anything remotely catchy/marketable. The latest trademark grab comes on the heels of the Greatest Trademark Show on Earth, the 2012 Olympics
USA Gymnastics is preparing a trademark filing for the term “Fierce Five,” which was attached to the gold medal-winning women’s gymnastics team at the London Olympics, spokeswoman Luan Peszek said in an e-mail.

Peszek has said the team, including Gabby Douglas, the first black gymnast to win the all-around, preferred Fierce Five to Fab Five.
Good thing, too. The article points out that, preference or no, Fab Five is already taken, secured by Jalen Rose a mere 19 years after University of Michigan's 1991 draft class was given that nickname. I'm not sure what the opportunities are to capitalize on a catch phrase two decades down the road, but if any exist, it's probably in the "undergarments" and "pajamas" field.

The road to "Fierce Five" isn't entirely bump-free, however. Someone has beaten the Olympic medalists to the Trademark Office:
A California man, Paolo Mazza, filed for a “Fierce Five” trademark on Aug. 8, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website. No attorney was listed on the filing, which provided only a post-office box in Millbrae, California, as an address. There is no telephone listing available.*
*(There is. You just have to dig a little deeper.)

Mazza is no stranger to the trademark field, having filed one for the phrase "Lin-sational" back in February. Wisely deciding to avoid the rush on the more popular phrase "Lin-sanity," Mazza instead attempted to nail down his uncontested phrase only to find it very much contested by the USPTO, which has asked him to provide proof that Jeremy Lin is totally cool with this (orig. wording slightly paraphrased). No doubt Mazza will find himself 0-for-2 in the near future, as no one is allowed to fuck with any Olympics-related IP as it's likely the USPTO will view this new attempt as just another trademark squat, something that is becoming somewhat of a "trademark" for Paola Mazza.

So, it's a little bit of everything that's ridiculous about IP "ownership." Sportscasters use the term "Fab Five" to refer to a gymnastics team, which it can freely do as long as it doesn't slap the phrase on some pajamas, thus violating Jalen Rose's 20-years-from-the-point-of-impact trademark, which has recently been extended. The gymnastics team grants itself its own nickname, the "Fierce Five," and rushes to the USPTO to find itself second in line behind another person who thought he might capitalize on something somehow by swiftly locking the phrase down. (The whole "choose your own nickname" part of this seems a bit disingenuous. I mean, I'd like to be known as "The Impossibly Photogenic Writer" but it's more likely I'll be known as "Pirate Mike's B-Lister," among other things. Just like you don't get to choose your family members or parole officers, you just don't get to choose your own nickname.) 

If the granting of trademark protection is supposed to protect consumers from bad actors and allow enforcement by the rights holders to prevent dilution, how does jumping all over a catch-phrase do any of the above? Are consumers really going to be "damaged" if they purchase a counterfeit "Furious Five" unitard? Are we really in need of a bunch of catch-phrases with a (TM) attached in order to dispel the confused haze that surely must surround us at all times? Would it be a lost opportunity if a mildly viral quote went unregistered? 

I would think that a key move towards cutting down abuse of this system (trademark trolling/trademark bullying) would be to trim down on the number of, for lack of a better term, "frivolous" filings. I realize the USPTO isn't in any position to try to gauge the level of post-championship, post-interview, post-viral quote atmosphere in which the application was filed (especially months down the road when it gets reviewed), but as it stands now, the system does absolutely nothing to discourage these sorts of actions -- either the quick-fire trademark squatting or the equally-fast attempts to monetize fleeting moments.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2012 @ 8:28pm

    Let them have "fierce Five". After the olympics they will be nobodies. No one cares about the Oldlimpdicks after the games are over.:)

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Aug 15th, 2012 @ 9:09pm

    Don't trademarks have to yield to prior art?

     

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    gab4moi (profile), Aug 15th, 2012 @ 9:42pm

    I am rushing to lodge a claim on 'Gabby Dabby Doo', I am sure Ms Douglas' soon to be revealed new hairstyle will require a name and I have the one for her! Now, where to retire to...

     

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    BentFranklin (profile), Aug 15th, 2012 @ 9:53pm

    I totally agree with the "land grab" description. It's like Oklahoma all over again, soon to be followed by the barbed wire fences.

     

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    BentFranklin (profile), Aug 15th, 2012 @ 10:04pm

    Those athletes are just following the example set by the Olympic Committee. What did you expect?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2012 @ 11:27pm

    Maybe it is time to start asking people to show proof that they are using a trademark before granting any to anyone.

    I mean why would you grant such things for "potential use" and not "actual use"?

     

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    John, Aug 16th, 2012 @ 12:23am

    Fierce...

    Curb your enthusiasm, season 4, episode 5

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2012 @ 12:28am

    Fierce

    Are you kidding me ? Are they forming a girl band or something ?

     

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    G Thompson (profile), Aug 16th, 2012 @ 12:54am

    So to trademark this 'nickname' and keep the trademark from lapsing the mark needs to be used in commerce at all times.

    Would this then make the 'five' be professional players and not amateurs, under Olympic rules, since they are receiving commercial gain (not sponsorships which is ok since it is more a gift and not 'commercial') therefore removing ad making moot any future Olympic or other amateur sporting meets?

    Not sure someone has thought this all the way through

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2012 @ 6:01am

      Re:

      Interesting point but it is likely to be argued that the trademark allows amateurs to protect their future professional use of the trademark even if they are not currently using it in commerce. The argument as I see it would be that it would protect from confusion that the product being offered by a third party has been authorized by the amateur when it has not been. As for the aspect of them being professionals, unless we are talking about them being able to continue to compete in collegiate competitions and other amateur only events, that went away in the early 90's.

       

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        art guerrilla (profile), Aug 16th, 2012 @ 12:41pm

        Re: Re:

        a-ma-teurs ? ? ?
        what is that ? is that an archaic term or sumpin'?
        here's a factoid that i bet bob costas didn't throw out in his interminable, boring, olympic-sized trivia fest:
        did you know that the USOC pays US olympic medal winners ? ? ? (some other countries do too...)
        i didn't, until i just ran across an article talking about it a month or so ago...
        since 1984 they have paid out for medals, these days the rate is:
        25 000 for a gold
        15 000 for a silver
        10 000 for a bronze...
        funny, NO ONE i talked to who follows the oilympics knew of that minor factoid...
        huh, wonder why...
        you'd think in cha-ching-obsessed 'murika that would be a little more publicized...
        art guerrilla
        aka ann archy
        eof

         

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    peter, Aug 16th, 2012 @ 2:08am

    Misunderstanding

    "trademark protection is supposed to protect consumers from bad actors and allow enforcement by the rights holders to prevent dilution"

    There is where the misunderstanding starts and finishes. You see a Trademark is there is order for me to MAKE MONEY and to stop others from stealing MY MONEY. It therefore follows that anything that could possibly be used by me, be snapped up and so I can prevent anyone else jumping in first, or at all.

    'protect customers'.....Pah Who cares about them

     

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    Barbara S., Aug 16th, 2012 @ 2:22am

    Infamy FTW.

    I'm off to trademark "Mazza-mark / Mazza-marking" . It is a name given to or the act of a squatted trademark.

     

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    Ninja (profile), Aug 16th, 2012 @ 3:47am

    It is going to be a Fierce battle for trademark!

     

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    The MaskedAvenger, Aug 16th, 2012 @ 4:26am

    I wonder...

    Does anyone know if the "Fab Four" is avaliable to trademark, ya see I have this idea for a band...

     

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    DUMBASS POLITICIANS, Aug 16th, 2012 @ 4:57am

    USA retards rejoice

    im patenting this....as well as DUMBASS POLITICIANS.....imma be rich

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2012 @ 5:06am

    (The whole "choose your own nickname" part of this seems a bit disingenuous. I mean, I'd like to be known as "The Impossibly Photogenic Writer" but it's more likely I'll be known as "Pirate Mike's B-Lister," among other things.

    You should check and see if Charlie McCarthy is taken.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2012 @ 5:26am

    Uh Mike...

    Wouldn't that be "with a (R) attached to them instead of a "(TM)"?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2012 @ 5:26am

    Uh Mike...

    Wouldn't that be "with a (R) attached to them instead of a "(TM)"?

     

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    RobM (profile), Aug 16th, 2012 @ 5:33am

    You cannot trademark Squat™ these days.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2012 @ 5:42am

      Re:

      Sure you can. You in effect just did. The TM mark is simply a claim made for an unregistered trademark. Official one's that have been registered get the R symbol.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2012 @ 5:42am

      Re:

      Sure you can. You in effect just did. The TM mark is simply a claim made for an unregistered trademark. Official one's that have been registered get the R symbol.

       

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    Pixelation, Aug 16th, 2012 @ 7:49am

    Looks like someone owns the Domain fiercefive.com. Wonder if he'll get sued after they get a trademark.

     

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    Yakko Warner (profile), Aug 16th, 2012 @ 8:24am

    Skadoosh

    Are consumers really going to be "damaged" if they purchase a counterfeit "Furious Five" unitard?

    Perhaps not, but Dreamworks might have a few words.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2012 @ 11:20am

    Arrrr, mateys!

    Shiver me timbers, 'tis Pirate Mike of the goode ship Techdirt!

     

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    temoi, Aug 16th, 2012 @ 3:23pm

    whatever, just put down that tranny jordan wieber.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 17th, 2012 @ 4:45am

    Not in the US - but in Australia in the early 2000s an NRL forward pack (minus the hooker) was given the nickname the Fierce Five.

     

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