The San Francisco 49ers are Super Bowl-bound. And if the team’s young quarterback — Colin Kaepernick — scores, you’re likely to see him motion a kiss at his flexed right bicep. (His helmet gets in the way of his lips actually making contact with that tattooed arm, impressive as it is.)
Turns out the 25-year-old calls this move “Kaepernicking.” And he’s applied for a trademark of the term.
It’s just the latest in a long line of sports figures branding their moves. Take, for example, “Tebowing” or “Linsanity.” Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin trademarked their respective terms. But it’s not clear how much they’ve made off them, nor how much Kaepernick stands to make.
Daniel Durbin teaches sports and culture at the University of Southern California. He questions the timing of the trademark move. He says Kaepernick should be focused on the big game.
Instead, “this quarterback is focused on trying to copyright an action of self-love?” he asks rhetorically.
Durbin says the danger for Kaepernick is that sports stars — and their brands — often fade quickly. Who even says “Linsanity” anymore?
But William and Mary law professor Laura Heymann says a trademark is sometimes less about protecting a brand, and more about protecting the person behind it.
“If anybody is going to be able to make money from merchandise that involves that mark, it should be the athlete himself or herself,” she says.
If an outside person or company tries to make money from a sports figure’s name, Heymann says trademarks can often give the figure legal name protection.