California recently passed a law allowing college athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness. While this is a very cool law, young people will now require sophisticated legal advice on how to protect their trademarks.

How can collegiate athletes protect their name, image and likeness?

Here are two things that every college athlete needs to consider when trying to protect their name, image or likeness.

  1. Identify and register trademarks.

The first thing collegiate athletes need to do is properly identify their trademarks.

This can be done in a number of ways. When it comes to the pros, some athletes have protected their nicknames with a federal trademark registration, like A-Rod and Gronk. Others have protected their legal name, like Peyton Manning. Phil Mickelson obtained a trademark registration if a logo with his two arms raised after winning a tournament.  Even Roger Federer’s R-F logo is trademarked, but still owned by Nike. Finally, Colin Kaepernick registered a trademark for the way that he looks.

  1. Ensure proper ownership of trademarks.

After identifying and beginning the registration process for their trademarks, it’s important for college athletes to ensure they list the proper owner for their filings. It’s incredibly important to carefully consider this part of the process, because choosing the incorrect owner can have serious legal consequences for the individual later on.

One example of the ramifications of this mistake is NBA MVP Kawhi Leonard’s situation. Currently, Leonard is embroiled in federal litigation with Nike over his Klaw logo and who should properly own it. Litigation could have been avoided entirely if Leonard had just negotiated with Nike for ownership of the logo if he ever left the company.

Likewise, Tom Brady allowed his TB12 trademarks to be owned by his agent’s LLC. It was only recently that he just transferred all those trademarks to TEB Capital Management, his own company.

As these laws are passed by various states around the country, there will be more and more young adults needing complex legal advice who have never needed it before. Identifying and properly protecting trademarks is a lifetime event for a young athlete. If it is not done right, literally millions of dollars could be on the line.

If you have any questions regarding the trademarks for student athletes, please reach out to an attorney at Gerben Law Firm via the contact form on our website.