November 8, 2013
Apparently, though, college football really rakes it in — not for the players themselves, who under NCAA rules have to retain amateur status, but for the schools, which make millions on tickets, merchandise, media rights and donations from boosters.
College football is so lucrative that some schools with high-profile teams have started to trademark their coach’s names or signature phrases. According to USA Today, Ohio State and coach Urban Meyer, Kansas State and coach Bill Snyder and the University of Washington and coach Steve Sarkisian are at various stages of obtaining trademarks pertaining to the coach’s identities (and entering into licensing agreements so that authorized merchandise can be sold. Naturally!).
Two things about this story:
- First, I find it rather suspect that NCAA rules prevent players from profiting from their names and likenesses, but colleges and individual coaches are free to cash in. Opinion on whether college football players should be paid seems fractured. Evidently, fans venerate the amateur status of athletes (as in they don’t think they should be paid for actually paying football) but apparently would be okay with them getting a cut of what’s being made off the team itself.
- Second, I think it’s interesting to see how clever schools and coaches are getting about what they’re seeking trademarks for. For example, Ohio State is pursuing a trademark for the saying, “Urban Meyer Knows.” That’s probably its way of getting around the USPTO’s reluctance to trademark people’s actual full names with nothing more. Under the Lanham Act, trademarks can be basically anything that distinguishes one producer’s goods from another’s, but historically, it’s been difficult to argue that an individual should be able to trademark a name alone, especially when it isn’t terrible unusual or uncommon.