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Could Olympic Gold Medallists Be Denied Their ‘Fierce Five’ Trademark?

Monday August 20, 2012 at 10:41am

At this year’s London Olympics, the women’s USA Gymnastics team earned the title the “Fierce Five,” and are seeking to trademark their new, and potentially lucrative, moniker. The team is now preparing to own the “Fierce Five” name as a registered trademark, giving them the exclusive rights to profit from the mark, said their spokesperson Luan Peszek in an email.

Fierce Five Evolution

The announcers and commentators in the US repeatedly referred to the group, which included Gabby Douglas, the history-making teen who became the first black gymnast to win the women’s all-around, as the “Fab Five.” However, this name had already been attributed to a basketball draft class from the University of Michigan in 1991. The Fab Five trademark has since been granted to one of the players, Jalen Rose.

This year’s team of gold medallists didn’t bat an eye to that hurdle, as spokesperson Peszek says that they prefer the title Fierce Five. However, they may not be prepared for another roadblock on their path to protect their rights to use the team nickname that has followed them to fame. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, a trademark application has already been filed for “Fierce Five” by an uninvolved third party.

On 8 August, a California resident by the name of Paolo Mazza filed the “Fierce Five” trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This man may have a history of “squatting” on celebrity terms and fad phrases, as a man with the same name and same post-office box address also filed to trademark “lin-sational” in February, when a fierce love for the basketball player Jeremy Lin overtook the US and spawned a number of puns on his name.

Bad faith?

The news that someone else claimed their mark first could set the Fierce Five back, but it’s unlikely, said Miami-based sports and entertainment lawyer Darren Heitner. In a phone interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Heitner said that the US trademark authorities will “look at this person’s history, note that he also filed a similar application with Jeremy Lin, and quickly recognise that this person is nothing more than a squatter.”

Both the US and the UK tend to rule against what is commonly referred to as “squatting” on a trademark of “cybersquatting” on a domain name. A court may rule that the trademark application by Mazza was in “bad faith,” and made purely with the intent to profit from licensing its use back to the ‘real’ Fierce Five. However, squatters can wield much power simply because they claimed mark first, and there’s no guarantee that any courts will do ‘the right thing’ by any business owner or celebrity who has been using a mark or made it famous. Because of this, it’s crucial that trademark registration is sought out as early as possible in order to beat squatters at their own game.

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