Who Owns the “Dunk City” Trademark?

0325_NCSP_SM_FGCUNCAA_42_02_t607After hiring away Florida Gulf Coast head coach Andy Enfield Monday night with a hefty sum of cash, USC also pirated the Ft. Myers school’s now-famous “Dunk City” moniker.

“Please welcome Andy Enfield to the Trojan family as the new head coach of USC hoops,” went the Trojan tweet Monday. It was tagged #DunkCityUSC.

Talk about adding insult to injury. First they take FGCU’s coach. Then they take FGCU’s now famous slogan.

According to FGCU athletic director Ken Kavanagh, this is technical foul.

“There’s only one Dunk City USA.” Kavanagh said in a news conference Tuesday. “It’s here in Southwest Florida. I think it’s totally inappropriate for USC to do that. We would not copy somebody else’s well-earned scenario, and I will be sure to let USC know that.”

USC’s Athletic Director Pat Haden already responded, however, by saying, “They have a right [to be upset],” Haden told ESPN on Wednesday afternoon. “That’s their moniker. They made it up. We’re going to create our own moniker. Somebody will figure it out with the way we play next year. I don’t think we should [use it]. We should respect their wishes.”

So who actually owns the trademark to “Dunk City”? No one at this point. However, Jennifer Psait from Fort Myers applied for an “intent to use” application (which we’ve discussed on this blog before) on March 25th under the trademark classification IC025 and listed “shirts and hats” as sub-classifications. I’ve heard rumors that this person is a music producer from Fort Myers but nothing is confirmed at this point.

Should FGCU be entitled to this mark? From a legal perspective, they were likely the first to “use in commerce” the phrase. However, it is more likely that no individual/school/entity should be entitled to trademark rights in this mark because it is a pretty generic term.

“I can’t imagine litigation over this,” said Michael McCann, who is the legal expert for Sports Illustrated. “To me this is a fairly generic expression. This is different from Johnny Manziel or Tim Tebow – an individual person. Here, it’s a style of play, success. I think the nexus between that expression and [Enfield] is weaker than Tebowing or Linsanity. This is something that should not be resolved in court.”

I agree with McCann and feel that there is no reason for the courts to be involved in this matter. Furthermore, it is more than likely that Jennifer Psait abandons the trademark application after FGCU applies some heat. Alternatively, once the mark is put in front of an examining attorney at the USPTO, it is likely that the application will be denied for being “generic”. As discussed previously on this blog, generic and descriptive marks (which haven’t received secondary meaning) do not receive trademark protection. This is the type of mark that likely would fall into the generic or descriptive category.

Who do you think should get rights to the phrase “Dunk City”? I would love to hear your thoughts.

For more information on Seattle Trademark law, consider contacting a Seattle Trademark Attorney.

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