Earlier this Summer, news of Brady’s trademark applications drew ire from baseball fans, particularly those of the New York Mets team. Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver bore the nickname TOM TERRIFIC during his 20-year major league career, most of which pitching for the Mets, and won baseball’s World Championship for the Mets in 1969. One Mets fan (who is also a trademark attorney) went so far as to submit 84 pages to the USPTO of printouts from news articles, encyclopedias and columns referring to Tom Seaver by the nickname “Tom Terrific.”
The USPTO took notice of this evidence and rejected the applications because the mark TOM TERRIFIC falsely suggests a connection between Brady and Tom Seaver. Under U.S. trademark law, a mark cannot be registered if the following criteria are satisfied:
- The mark sought to be registered is the same as or similar to a name, nickname or identity previously used by another person or institution;
- The mark would be recognized as such, in that it points uniquely and unmistakably to that person or institution;
- The person or institution identified in the mark is not connected to the products or services identified in the application; and
- The fame or reputation of the named person is such that a connection with such person would be presumed when the applicant’s mark is used on the products.
Brady has 6 months in which to respond to the USPTO and argue his case. Fans of his New England Patriots football team hope he will leave the arguments to his trademark attorneys and focus his efforts on leading the team to another league championship. But the case serves as a reminder that, unless his attorneys can somehow demonstrate that there is a connection between Brady’s business endeavors and Tom Seaver, some applications are better off not being filed in the first place.