Los Angeles – Former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant’s nickname, the “Black Mamba”, has landed him in a legal battle to defend the right to use the nickname. Bryant and a California based online retail company named 47 / 72 Inc. have filed trademark applications for variations of “Black Mamba.”
Bryant was drafted directly from high school in 1996 and played in the NBA for 20 years before retiring after last season. Nike declared April 13, 2016, which was the date of Kobe Bryant’s last game, “Mamba Day” because over the course of his career he had been given the nickname the “Black Mamba.”
On May 2, 2016, less than a month after his last game, Bryant filed a trademark application for “Black Mamba” for apparel with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The application was filed on an intent-to-use basis meaning that at the time of the filing Bryant did not allege use in commerce.
The problem for Bryant is that on April 19, 2016, just two week before he filed his Black Mamba trademark application, 47 / 72 Inc. filed a trademark application for “The Black Mamba” also in relation to apparel. Surprisingly, despite basically identical trademarks and the same goods, the trademark office approved both applications. To prevent the 47 / 72 Inc. application from registering, Bryant was forced to file a Notice of Opposition against the “The Black Mamba” application. In the filing, Bryant claims that the 47 / 72 Inc. brand is too similar to his own and that it will confuse consumers into believing that the online retail store is the same as or connected to Bryant.
Since Bryant’s application was filed subsequent to the 47 / 72 Inc. application, he is relying on common law rights and the prior fame of his nickname to assert his claim. Bryant alleges that beginning in 2007 he and his company Kobe Inc. authorized his business partners and sponsors to start using the nickname on a wide variety of products. Thus, he claims he has been using the nickname as a brand for nearly 10 years.
This is not the only trademark application filed by 47 / 72 Inc. The company has recently filed 69 trademark applications many of which appear likely to run into infringement issues such as PETS.COM, POP (T)ART, and MAKE AMERIKKKA GREAT AGAIN.