I have written about Johnny Manziel's "Johnny Football" nickname/mark several times:
- The conflict between U.S. trademark law and NCAA rules: The "Johnny Football" scenario.
- On trademark infringement.
- Use of a trademark "in commerce" and the redux of the Johnny Football example.
- Agency, Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel -- Part 2: Teaching basic legal analysis through college football.
- What is the NCAA enforcement team looking at when investigating Johnny Manziel's eligibility? Part 3: Teaching basic legal analysis through college football.
- By definition, a college athlete with a federally registered trademark is violating NCAA rules.
- Illustrating the difference in legal standards through the NCAA and Johnny Football autograph situation.
Manziel is unique among college athletes because the NCAA allowed him to protect his "Johnny Football" mark prior to the expiration of his eligibility. Being able to protect his mark does not mean that he can use the mark in commerce. If he did use the mark in commerce, he would be violating NCAA rules.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office recently issued an office action illustrating its concern that the "Johnny Football" mark is not being used as a trademark. Manziel is in a difficult position, because he cannot use the mark in commerce and maintain eligibility. But he must use the mark in commerce to obtain a valid federal registration. Manziel's people made a big mistake by not pursuing an intent-to-use application followed by affidavit of use once his eligibility expires. That would have solved this problem.