Trademark Celebrations

General - Interesting Topics

A few months have now passed since the London 2012 Olympics concluded but we can still remember the great success of our Great British Olympians like it was yesterday. Perhaps even more memorable were the celebrations of Usain Bolt and Mo Farah. You will no doubt recall Bolt’s celebration where he leans back and points to the sky as though he is firing an arrow and who can forget Mo Farah’s ‘Mobot’ where he places his arms over his head to create an ‘M’ shape.

It is not unusual for sports personalities to create celebrations which they have become even more famous for. Many football fans out there will no doubt recall the famous ‘Klinsmann’ which was basically a skydive on land created by Germany striker Jurgen Klinsmann when he played for Tottenham Hotspur in the mid 1990`s. Recently, tennis player Andrea Petkovic has began celebrating her tennis victories in what can only be described as some kind of chicken dance known as the ‘petko dance’ ; and this is just to name a few.

It has recently been reported in various newspapers across America that an American Footballer actually achieved registration of his famous stance known as ‘tebowing’; named after himself Tim Tebow. The act is more a gesture than a celebration as he drops to his knees and places his fist to his head in the second quarter of the game or half time for us English folk.

After doing a bit of investigation it turns out that the gesture is not actually registered as a trademark, but a company owned by Tim Tebow does own trademarks for word marks just not the physical gesture. In other words he doesn’t own the intellectual property rights of the physical gesture, but does own the word marks which are printed on clothing, toys and other memorabilia etc.

The question posed by many is whether it would be possible for these sportsmen and sportswomen to officially register their trademark gestures or celebrations and sue people who copy and imitate them. The short answer to this is no. That would be ridiculous. Imagine a world where the Mobot was banished from the school playground and people were sued when they pointed at an aeroplane in the sky whilst leaning back. Utter madness!

Surely enforcing a trademark infringement for a protected gesture would be evidentially burdensome and perhaps most important of all, counter-productive for whoever owned the trademark. Let me explain; all these famous celebrations actually serve as a promotional tool for the sportsmen and women which in turn elevates their status` and ultimately increases their sales revenue through sales of clothing, memorabilia and sponsorship etc. In short, imitating their renowned gestures and celebrations actually promotes them. It would therefore be detrimental to sportsmen/women to register a gesture as a trademark as people would stop imitating them and they wouldn’t be as well known.

There are currently rumours that McDonalds intend to sue Mo Farah for infringing their intellectual property as they believe his’M’ shape was a signal for ‘I’m lovin it’ and surprisingly not ‘M’ for ‘Mo’. Personally I feel the link is rather tenuous and I certainly wouldn’t confuse Mo for a fast food outlet but I can see why a world champion athlete may dilute Mcdonalds’ image somewhat. Perhaps if an Olympic shot putter did the Mobot then Mcdonalds wouldn’t be too bothered. It seems strange that Mcdonalds would take such a stance given their recent entry into the organic foods market, well salad at least. I think they are missing out on a great coup, imagine Mo promoting their small radish Mcsalad, surely a missed promotional opportunity! They obviously haven’t actually seen how the Mobot was invented either.

So for the time being at least I think it’s safe to ‘Mobot’ until your heart’s content. Of course you may end up with a writ from McDonalds, but given that McDonalds actually believe Mo Farah was ‘lovin it and should therefore pay the company for the expression of joy’ I think you could be excused for thinking they are a bunch of Mcnuggets!

All information is correct on the date of posting.