Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel may have received a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct at Saturday’s game against Rice University, but that’s not stopping the Heisman Trophy winner from accusing others of unlawful conduct in court.
As the Record previously reported, Manziel filed two federal lawsuits against T-shirt makers he claims are infringing on his copyrighted “Johnny Football” nickname and slogan.
In the suit filed by a company registered to Manziel’s family, JMAN2 Enterprises LLC, the defendant Eric Vaughn has filed a counterclaim, arguing that Manziel’s application for protection of “Johnny Football” was initially rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
According to an article in the Dallas Morning News, one of the reasons the USPTO gave for the preliminary rejection was that the trademark was “merely a decorative or ornamental feature of applicant’s clothing.” It says JMAN2 Enterprises has until November to respond to the objection.
Vaughn’s attorney, Joe Bahqat, said that even if the Manziel family were to win this lawsuit, the lack of valid trademark would mean he would only be entitled to actual damages, according to the Dallas article.
The quarterback, who won the Heisman his freshman year, was in hot water himself pre-season for allegedly making money by selling his autographs. College football prohibits student athletes from profiting from their fame.
He was ordered to sit out the first half of the A&M season opener against Rice.
During the game, Manziel could be seen getting in the face of Rice players and pointing at the scoreboard and gesturing as if he was signing an autograph. He finally received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the fourth quarter.
To win the lawsuit against Vaughn, JMAN2 could argue that Manziel has a common law trademark right. To prove common law trademark, it has to be asserted by “bona fide use in commerce,” meaning the trademark must appear on the goods in question, the container for the goods, or displays associated with the goods, and the goods must be sold or transported in commerce.
Ironically, as Bahqat pointed out, by proving the he made money on goods bearing the trademark, Manziel would then become ineligible to play college football.
Texas A&M defeated Rice 52-31.