In the battle of RG3 versus RG3, my money is on RG3.
Lest you think I’ve been sniffing too much newspaper ink, let me assure you that previous sentence makes more sense than it might initially appear. Seems that Robert Griffin III, the much-beloved former Baylor quarterback who is almost universally known by his nickname RG3, has found himself in the midst of a trademark dispute with Research Group 3, a company that makes high-end suspension systems for racing motorcycles. The company, which has been in operation since 1998, has used the RG3 initials on its hats and T-shirts for years.
Attorneys for the two parties are trying to negotiate an agreement. In the end, there may be a pretty simple solution, said Bill Munck, a Dallas-based trademark attorney who has no dog in the fight.
“If I were doing it, if I were representing Research Group 3, for them to get anything out of it, I’d ask RG3 the quarterback to use his brand to promote their company,” Munck said.
Makes a lot of sense to me. Obviously major corporations like Subway, Gatorade and Adidas pay handsomely to use Griffin to endorse their products. Surely this motorcycle supplier wouldn’t mind a well-known, photogenic and, oh by the way, extremely fast NFL quarterback peddling their wares as well. As it is, the company has already enjoyed more publicity than it ever could have dreamed thanks to the dispute itself.
So, in these scuffles, does it help to be first or to be famous?
Well, ideally, you’d like to be both, Munck said.
“RG3 the quarterback, he’s become almost like Michael (Jordan) or like Tiger (Woods). He’s got a moniker that people associate with,” Munck said. “And by all accounts, he’s a class act. As far as the Research Group 3 company goes, they have a legitimate concern. It’s not as if they’re trying to make money off Griffin, or some cyber-squatter who bought up the URL. They’ve used RG3 on their jackets and shirts, and the name means something to their consumers.”
I can see both sides, honestly. Griffin is certainly entitled to promote and market himself, as is the motorcycle supplier. And in actuality, Griffin actually filed for trademark protection first, though Research Group 3 has some rights under “common law,” Munck said.
Those of us outside of the legal circles probably never give a second thought to such disputes, but they happen every day, all over the country. They just happen to make more headlines when a Pro Bowl quarterback is involved.
But they’re not unprecedented in the sports world. Jordan, who even in retirement remains one of the planet’s most marketed and recognizable athletes, has waged various lawsuits over the years over the use of his likeness. Most recently, he accused Chinese company Qiaodan with using his name and jersey number without his authorization.
And remember the whole Twelfth Man brouhaha? Texas A&M trademarked the phrase, then later sued the Seattle Seahawks for using it to describe their own fan base. The two sides came to an agreement in 2006, with A&M allowing the Seahawks use of the term in exchange for “financial compensation” and an acknowledgment that the Aggies owned the trademark. Undoubtedly, that settlement generated plenty of “Whoops!” from the Gig ’Em crowd.
The most recent A&M-related dispute involves none other than Johnny Manziel, better known as Johnny Football. Some T-shirt entrepreneur was making a buck or two selling “Johnny Football” shirts until a limited liability company formed by Manziel last year stepped in and filed suit. The only sticking point for Manziel is that as an amateur athlete, he can’t yet make any money off his name. (Though he’s well within his rights to protect it).
And then there’s Pat Riley. Back when Riley coached the Los Angeles Lakers, he trademarked the phrase “Three-Peat” in hopes that his team would do just that. (They didn’t). However, Riley still cashed in when subsequent NBA and MLB teams won three straight titles, reaping royalties from apparel merchandisers and such.
In the case of the dueling RG3s, I’m betting some kind of settlement can be reached. Too many greenbacks at stake.
So, what’s in a name?
It’s as good a question today as it was when Will “the Quill” Shakespeare first penned it in the 16th Century. I don’t know the answer, but I know this:
Whatever’s in a name, it’s worth a lot more if you trademark it.
So says BC1™.