The business of college football is big. At a time when the upper level conferences are seeking to break away from the NCAA to consolidate TV revenue and power, the money surrounding college football has never been greater. And unlike professional sports where the elite players are the stars, in college football the most identifiable representative of a particular university is often the coach.
Coaches at the big universities sign contracts for millions of dollars. The coach becomes the face of the program. This notoriety is prompting coaches to cash in on their image. One way they are seeking to do this is by protecting their names through trademark registration.
One such program where this opportunity exists is the University of Southern California. The school has a storied football program. Being the head football coach at USC thrusts you right in one of the brightest spotlights of all of college football. This fall, Steve Sarkisian enters his first season as head coach at USC. Taking on such a high profile gig, Sarkisian will be highly visible and if he’s successful, will have the opportunity to cash in on his name. That’s why his company, Sark Enterprises, recently filed a trademark application on “Sark” in the classes covering clothing and sports and entertainment related websites.
Sark’s trademark application was filed at the end of 2013. It was filed as an “intent-to-use” application. This means that the actual mark, “Sark”, had not yet been used in commerce. In order for a trademark application to register, an applicant has to show that he has actually used the mark in interstate commerce. Sarkisian’s application was examined by the Trademark Office and no conflicting marks were found. This led to a Notice of Allowance and upon a showing of actual use in commerce, the trademark application will mature into a trademark registration.
Armed with a trademark registration, Sarkisian will be able to prevent others from using his name commercially without his permission – at least with respect to the goods and services identified in any registration. If he’s a winner at USC, he stands to make significant money licensing his brand. And Sarkisian isn’t the only high profile head coach looking to do this. Urban Meyer and Dabo Swinney are a few of the coaches that have also filed trademark applications to protect their name. As the money around college football increases, you can be sure that more of the recognizable faces will seek to protect their personal brand through trademark registration.