Tim Tebow and the Power of the Trademark

The NFL season is back in full swing, and as always there is plenty of excitement to keep the sports media cycle churning rapidly. But lost in all of the X’s and O’s earlier this season was a very interesting development. Deseret News reports:

Be careful when you take a knee and rest your forehead on your fist. You may end up paying the man who popularized what his fans call “Tebowing.”

New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow recently trademarked the prayerful pose. “It got hyped up as Tebowing, so [the trademark] was more to just control how it’s used, make sure it’s used in the right way,” he told Newsday.

A lengthy piece on CNN’s Belief Blog reported that a Denver Broncos fan was the first to file a trademark application last year. But when Tebow’s XV Enterprises found out, it protested and won. Then the marketing firm filed its own application. Earlier this month the trademark was published and if no opposition derails it, Tebow will own the way he publicly prays.

If that happens, some are questioning if trademarking not just a term, but a pose, goes too far, especially when it is one so commonly used.

Tebow has never been shy about his Christian beliefs. When he played for University of Florida, his eyeblack was inscribed with scripture. After he graduated the NCAA banned that practice.

“No one believes Tim Tebow is going to spend his days checking the media to be sure the world is respecting his trademark property. But in the sticky muck that is the ‘separation of church and state,’ the Tebow trademark may set a slippery precedent,” wrote Julia Goralka in the Washington Times.

Tebow’s case was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office.

“Luckily, Tebow is more interested in using our government-granted intellectual property rights to protect his religious act from money-grubbers than to control how we individually pray,” Goralka wrote. “Let’s hope that precedent continues to hold.”

Others didn’t take Tebow’s trademark move quite so seriously. Steve Otto, an admitted Tebow fan and columnist for the Tampa Tribune, chalks it up to the once Gator star having too much time on the bench since the Broncos traded him to the Jets.

“I’m not sure how Tebowing can be used in either the right or the wrong way. It does seem that if the Jets don’t get him into the game a little more, it’s not going to matter. If someone is a winning athlete, it doesn’t seem to matter if he’s Tebowing™ or dealing drugs. Americans don’t seem to care.”

Regardless of your thoughts on Tim Tebow, the New York Jets, or football in general… the lesson here is that protecting your brand and your intellectual property results is essential. Tebow understands that his brand is worth untold millions of dollars, and is taking the necessary steps to maintain control. Business owners would be well advised to pay attention!