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NCAA Handcuffs Family Use While Johnny Football Seeks Trademark

Johnny Football Seeks Trademark While NCAA Handcuffs Family Use
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel reacts at the end of a 29-24 win over Alabama in an NCAA college football game. He is trying to trademark the term "Johnny Football." Photographer: Dave Martin/AP Photo

Johnny Manziel is trying to trademark the term “Johnny Football” even while National Collegiate Athletic Association rules prevent the Texas A&M quarterback or his family from profiting from it while he’s a college athlete.

The Manziel family is working in conjunction with the university to protect the trademark, the player’s likeness and the freshman’s eligibility, said Shane Hinckley, assistant vice president of business development at the College Station, Texas-based school.

“Everyone felt that if anybody should have ownership of this, it’s Johnny or his family,” Hinckley said via telephone.

Jay Jordan of the Tyler, Texas, law firm of J. Bennett White is representing the family and said in a telephone interview that he couldn’t discuss legal or other strategies.

“We’re exploring every avenue and believe several are open to us with regard to protection of Johnny Football,” he said.

Jordan wouldn’t say whether the family planned to use the mark commercially, or apply for extensions once their ownership of the mark is granted by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Kenneth R. Reynolds Family Investments filed a “Johnny Football” trademark application with the federal agency on Nov. 1. Jordan said the party is unrelated to the Manziel family and that the application would be opposed.

“Efforts are ongoing to eradicate those who seek to pirate the mark,” he said, declining to say whether Manziel has had talks with the university about a co-licensing agreement. Hinckley said the university wouldn’t profit from the trademark.

Stephen R. Hollas, the attorney listed on the Reynolds Family Investments application, didn’t return a message left at his office.

No Money

NCAA spokesman Wally Renfro didn’t immediately return a message left at his office seeking comment on what an athlete can and can’t do with a trademarked term. The Indianapolis-based governing body bars college players from profiting off their athletic achievements.

Manziel, 19, skyrocketed to prominence after the 15th-ranked Aggies defeated top-ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 10. Texas A&M climbed to ninth in the Associated Press Top 25 poll after that win.

The school’s website is taking pre-orders for Manziel’s No. 2 jersey, which wasn’t printed prior to the season because he wasn’t a consensus starter. The most prominently displayed football jersey on the site’s retail link is No. 12, which represents the team’s crowd, known as the 12th Man. The university holds a trademark on that.

Manziel was at the center of “Manziel Mania” while a multisport star at Tivy High School in Kerrville, Texas. No one used “Johnny Football” until he emerged as the starting quarterback at A&M.

A business major, Manziel has completed 227 of 336 passes for 18 touchdowns, with six interceptions. He’s also rushed for 1,014 yards and another 15 scores.

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