Over the past several years, we’ve covered the increasingly trendy practice of professional athletes rushing to the trademark office to register their nicknames and/or catchphrases. From Anthony Davis’ unibrow, to Bryce Harper’s flippant remarks, to Ryan Lochte channeling his inner bro-ness, up to and including Jeremy Lin’s claim on his portmanteau nickname, we’ve raised our eyebrows at this sort of theory of ownership and protectionism that often times looks to make exclusive money over the coined phrases created by others. This sort of locking up of language was never really the point of trademark law, as we’ve pointed out, and we’ve suggested that athletes engaging in this sort of thing probably isn’t the best thing for the public, the supposed beneficiary of trademark law.
But perhaps we should introduce a caveat in our stance: if you play for the Dallas Mavericks, maybe you should rush to the trademark office. It seems that Luka Doncic, the rookie star of Mark Cuban’s team, has had the trademark rug pulled out from underneath him by his employer.
One person in particular, Mike Pocopio, a development coach on the Mavs’ staff, referred to Doncic as ‘El Matador’ and it stuck.
Now, ‘El Matador’ and ‘The Matador’ have both been trademarked by the Mavs’ after they registered the names with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
According to Josh Gerben, the Mavs want the exclusive rights to the name so, should Doncic leave the Mavs one day, he would no longer be able to call himself ‘El Matador’.
That seems… pretty shitty? We have a rookie athlete doing a great job for his team, building a reputation for himself that results in a nickname, and then his team goes out to lock that nickname up… for what? So that if Doncic goes elsewhere, the team can reapply that nickname to a new player? Come on. What sure seems more likely is that the Mavericks know that Doncic is a thing in basketball circles and want to be able to trade off of their newest star player’s persona to the exclusion of him. Not a great look, honestly.
So, if athletes now want to claim that they are trademarking all of the things because they’re afraid team ownership will undercut them in doing so, that seems valid now. Thanks to the Mavs.
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