NBA player Giannis Antetokounmpo recently filed trademark applications to protect his nickname “GREEK FREAK” in association with entertainment services, clothing, sports drinks and more. The decision to protect his trademarks has been accompanied by cease-and-desist letters and lawsuits to individuals selling unofficial merchandise.

Josh Gerben was quoted by The Athletic discussing the intention behind the filings:

“You have a decision. Do you let the market flood with goods that could devalue your brand? Or protect it? He’s working super hard to build a brand around himself. Anybody in his position, I don’t think he’s being unreasonable in saying, ‘You can’t use my stuff.'”

“There’s a duty to police a trademark that a trademark owner has. You cannot just let people use it all the time and then show up years later to protect it. You have to have this ongoing policing effort behind your trademark. Otherwise, you lose the ability to do so.”

“A lot of people, once they get their hand caught in the cookie jar, will back down. Some don’t think they’re legitimately doing anything wrong. Some folks are being very nefarious about it, get caught, and show up somewhere else. It’s a game of whack-a-mole.”

“I do not think the lawsuits are terribly unusual, perhaps just slightly novel for a player to file personally. The professional sports leagues and teams file similar suits over counterfeit merchandise on a somewhat regular basis. Because the players are now bigger brands themselves than ever before, it is not surprising to see this type of lawsuit filed by a player with the profile that Giannis enjoys.”

“You have the ability to [print merchandise] at a scale so it’s a bigger problem for these athletes. It can cause real damage.”

Source: Shea, Bill. “Why Giannis Antetokounmpo is using lawsuits to protect his Greek Freak trademark”. TheAthletic.com. 29 May 2020.