NCAA Closes 'Johnny Football' Copyright Loophole in Amateurism Rules
Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M has a very unique, catchy and simple nickname: "Johnny Football."
Manziel can't profit off of it while he attends college, but the NCAA shut down any opportunity or loophole that others would have had to make money off of the namesake on Tuesday.
Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated broke down the decision:
A Texas A&M official said Tuesday that while the NCAA would allow...Manziel to collect damages if his corporation's lawsuit against the maker of the "Keep Calm and Johnny Football" T-shirt pans out, the governing body of college sports told Texas A&M it would consider an intentional copyright violation for the purposes of funneling money to a player to be a violation.
The lawsuit mentioned in Staples' report was filed by Manziel's corporation—JMAN2 Enterprises—to protect others from profiting off of the Johnny Football nickname (h/t Paul Myerberg of USA TODAY).
Manziel's situation threatened to bring down the model of amateurism in college sports, since his name isn't being directly implicated in the merchandise and could have allowed others—like the manufacturer of the aforementioned T-shirts—to make lots of money without Manziel seeing a dime.
Should a school's colors be an intellectual property rights violation in merchandise created by an independent manufacturer?
Texas A&M vice president of business development Shane Hinckley explained that it is a "three-headed monster" of legal issues. Not only would using "Manziel's likeness" in the vein of Johnny Football be disallowed, but it would also be an intellectual property rights violation for both him and the school.
Using the Aggies' colors of maroon and white in a Johnny Football product could also be a violation of intellectual property.
Staples points to a 2009 ruling involving Smack Apparel that ended in a similar outcome (h/t John T. Wolohan of AthleticBusiness.com). The Florida-based company admitted in its defense that it intentionally copied the color schemes of the LSU Tigers to sell shirts ahead of a big SEC clash against the University of Florida, which essentially ended the case.
The use of "Johnny Football" makes this instance all the more obvious that the T-shirt manufacturer was trying to rake in money at the expense of the superb quarterback.
Manziel is now able to collect damages for those who use his likeness, which secures his moniker from a legal standpoint for the foreseeable future.
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