Johnny Football, Johnny Football, Johnny Football, Johnny Football. Let’s all say it now before we have to pay…
Suffice it to say, the legend of “Johnny Football” grew on Saturday as Johnny Manziel, the Freshman Texas A&M quarterback led his team to a 29-24 upset of the top-ranked reigning champion Alabama Crimson Tide.
On Monday it was reported that the family of the Texas QB was putting itself in position to one day capitalize off his nickname. “Texas A&M is working in concert with the Manziel family to trademark the nickname,” said Shane Hinckley, who is assistant vice president of business development at the school and runs the Aggies’ licensing program. An organization called Kenneth R. Reynolds Family Investments, based in College Station, Texas, is the entity that filed for the “Johnny Football” trademark.
If the trademark is approved, it could be years before the Manziel family actually owns it has the opportunity to cash in. However, even though neither the Manziel’s nor the university can sell items with the name “Johnny Football” on it now (to preserve Manziel’s amateur status), you can be certain that A&M will still make millions selling “No. 2” jerseys.
Manziel wasn’t the clear starter when jersey numbers were ordered in February, so when the freshman sensation started to produce on the field and become mentioned in consideration for the Heisman Trophy, A&M’s apparel supply partner, Adidas, couldn’t move fast enough to meet immediate demand. Hinckley said Manziel’s Aggie No. 2 hit the campus bookstore for the first time this season on Friday, with a bigger shipment coming on Monday. Prior to that, the only Aggies jersey numbers available this season have been the generic No. 1 and No. 12, a standard number available each year at Texas A&M, famous for its 12th man.
So who’s really been able to make money off of trademarking a phrase? In February of 2008, Caroline Donnelly of CNN did a report on famous phrases owned by famous people that were able to profit from it, at the time, here’s what she found…
In 1988, Pat Riley and his Los Angeles Lakers were headed for a third consecutive NBA championship. The team started to use the term “three-peat” to describe their ultimate goal. Coach Riley claims the term originated from player Byron Scott. During the season, Riley registered the phrase as a trademark for use on merchandise.
The Lakers’ third championship attempt was thwarted by the Pistons in 1989, but the Chicago Bulls accomplished the feat in 1993. Riley was able to slam-dunk all the way to the bank when the Bulls opted to use the phrase for championship merchandise.
In 2005, a group of USC students were anticipating a third consecutive BCS championship and attempted to trademark the phrase “Three-Pete.” The misspelling was created not only to avoid paying Riley for use of the phrase, but also to pay homage to coach Pete Carroll. The federal trademark board ruled that the spelling difference was not enough to differentiate it from Riley’s three-peat. When a student started to sell his own “Three-Pete” shirts he was served with copyright infringement notification. And, just like Riley, USC did not succeed in reaching a three-peat.
“Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!”
Michael Buffer, the boxing and wrestling announcer well-known for his booming voice and classic catchphrase, holds the trademark to this phrase, which he started using in the 1980s. By 1992 he had a federally registered trademark for it. The move turned out to be profitable, as Buffer has used the phrase for songs, video games, and lottery commercials.
Always the entrepreneur, Buffer licensed the phrase to New York City taxicabs in the late 1990s for use in a welcome message, voiced by Buffer himself, encouraging riders to buckle their seatbelt before exclaiming “Let’s get ready to rumble…. for SAFETY!”
Buffer even appeared in a commercial for Kraft cheese and oh-so-cleverly changed the phrase to “Lets get ready to crumble!” for the company’s pre-packaged cheese crumbles. Surprisingly, Buffer has spared incarnations of the phrase involving many rhyming words. Look out fumble, bumble, stumble, humble, et. al.
There have been at least 17 approved applications to trademark the phrase “Let’s roll” since September 11, 2001.
Heroic Choices, the charitable organization formerly known as the Todd M. Beamer Foundation, trademarked the phrase in order to sell merchandise with proceeds going to the charity. But 16 additional claims were granted to other companies, for use on other types of merchandise including rolling back packs, roller sports, soft pretzels, paint rollers, metal building materials and tapes. Even Rolling Rock beer offers you to “Let’s roll… and rock with Rolling Rock.”
An applicant using the name “Let’s Roll Freedom Fighters” trademarked the phrase for use on just about anything you can buy in a gift shop; mouse pads, lighters, key chains and gun cases.
Heiress Paris Hilton popularized her catchphrase “that’s hot” on her hit reality show The Simple Life. She was the subject of media scrutiny when she applied for a trademark for the simple and relatively common phrase. She was granted three trademarks in 2007: one for use in men and women’s clothing, another for electronic devices and a third for alcoholic beverages. She has used the phrase to promote a canned version of an Italian sparkling wine called Rich Prosecco.
Later in 2007, Hilton announced plans to sue Hallmark for using her image and trademarked phrase on a greeting card. Hallmark claims that the card is fair game because it is parody; Hilton feels her rights have been violated. Currently, it is unclear if the case will go to court.
Emeril Lagasse’s “Emeril’s Food of Love” company owns the right to the phrase “Bam!” for its use on just about anything you can find in a drawer or cabinet in your kitchen: pans, pots, spatulas and tongs. There are numerous other claims to the phrase, including one by Jackass star Bam Margera and one by the EasyOff company for their cleaning products of the same name, but only Emeril’s uses an exclamation point.
“Goodnight my sweet Anna baby”
Larry Birkhead, the father of the late Anna Nicole Smith’s daughter Dannielynn, trademarked this phrase for its use in movies, books, television programs and stage plays. The phrase was used heavily by the media during coverage of Smith’s death. Birkhead claims the phrase is what the late Smith wanted to hear every night before she went to sleep, and Birkhead included the line in a poem on his Web site following her passing.
While Birkhead claims he never filed for the trademark, it is registered in his name. His former attorney, Debra Opri, claims that she advised him to trademark the phrase to “protect himself” because “You don’t want someone else to take advantage of something he said internationally — after he said it in court and then on one of the TV shows, it became famous.” Given all of the people who have tried to earn a profit from Smith’s death, it was probably a smart move.
“They are who we thought they were”
Normally quiet Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green first uttered this trademarked phrase during a swear-filled, post-game tirade in 2006. When he was asked what he thought of the Chicago Bears after his team dropped a 20-point lead during a Monday Night Football game, Green responded “they are who we thought they were.” There is another part to the quote “and we let ’em off the hook!” that is not part of the trademark.
Green exclusively owns the right to use the phrase for sports merchandise, but the clip is a sports media standard that is used when teams fail to take advantage of their opponent’s obvious flaws.