California Intellectual Property Blog


Nike Opposes Rob Gronkowski’s Trademark Application

San Diego – Last year New England Patriot TE Rob Gronkowski’s company, Gronk Nation L.L.C, filed a trademark application of a silhouette of the NFL star doing his signature “end zone spike.” In response, Nike has filed a formal opposition with the US Patent and Trademark Office Trial and Appeal Board requesting that Gronk’s application be denied.

Nike claims that the Gronk Spike trademark is too similar to its own very popular design trademark of the silhouette of Michael Jordan flying through the air with a basketball commonly known as the “Jumpman.” When the two trademarks are put next to each other, there are obvious similarities. First of all, both trademarks feature popular athletes in silhouette. Both trademarks depict an athlete with legs apart and one arm raised with a ball in hand. Nike claims that consumers will be confused by the similarities of the trademarks and likely feels the need to protect it because it is prominently used on products that generate enormous amounts of revenue for Nike.

Critics of Nike’s opposition have argued that Nike does not have much of a case. While there are similarities between the design trademarks, there are also differences. Gronk’s trademark shows him clearly holding a football while Nike’s is a basketball. The poses are also different. Regardless, the primary question is whether consumers will be confused as to source or wonder if the trademarks are somehow related.

In an interesting twist, Gronkowski is already endorsed by Nike. The star athlete has been featured in several of Nike’s national commercials. He even wears Nike cleats during NFL games. At some point Gronk may want to make a business decision since he will likely not want to jeopardize his relationship with the sports apparel giant.

Thus, it is expected that Nike and Gronkowski will work to settle this dispute outside of court. Troy Carnrite, Gronkowski’s trademark attorney, stated that Rob Gronkowski has created one of the most recognizable brands in sports and that he is hoping that they can resolve the issue with Nike “amicably.” Given the relationship between Gronk and Nike, we should probably expect that the issue will be resolved quickly.


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