Bloomberg Discusses Pro Athletes’ Need to Monitor and Enforce Their Brands with Josh Gerben

These days the world is seeing more pro athletes, such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, protecting, monitoring, and enforcing their brands than ever before.

Bloomberg and Josh Gerben talk about why brand protection has become so important to pro athletes.

Josh Gerben, a Washington, D.C.-based trademark lawyer […] says it’s a different era now because players are more involved in their own brands and products.

“You would get these superstars who would get these endorsement deals,” he said. “But they wouldn’t always be seeking out trademark protection because they were promoting someone else’s product or endorsing someone else’s product.”

Pro athletes file a wide spectrum of trademarks, some of which don’t necessarily have anything to do with a player’s name, image or likeness. This is partly due to ease in which counterfeit products can be marketed and sold, thanks to social media and the vast digital marketplace.

Gerben said his practice has seen the need to address knockoff goods for his clients explode in the last decade.

The online distribution of counterfeits also has become easier to track though, “and that’s why the lawsuits are proliferating,” he said.

Even college athletes who can’t afford litigation are filing trademark applications, he said, “because that’s a low-hanging fruit, relatively low-cost event.” If their careers take off, “then the enforcement will likely come a little later on.”

Nonetheless, Gerben said, a failure to at least try to protect one’s brand against even the least obvious of alleged violations could make it much harder to win a more important case down the road. Establishing a paper trail is key.

Source: Dolmetsch, Chris and Yasiejko, Christopher. “Pro Athletes Like the ‘Greek Freak’ Are Going After Trademark Violators.” 20 December 2021.

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