Nike Files Opposition of Gronk Nation Trademark Registration

  • Aug 10 2017
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  • Category: Blog

What is a trademark opposition proceeding?

Nike Inc. is opposing a trademark registration by New England Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski.  In April 2016, Gronk Nation LLC filed a trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a silhouetted logo of the football player’s raised arm about to spike a football.  Nike contends that this would cause confusion with its “Jumpman” logo, a silhouette of Michael Jordan dunking a basketball, used in connection with its Jordan brand.

Since 1987, Nike has used the logo for its Jordan line of clothing, footwear and sporting goods, and other related products, services, and sporting events.  Gronk Nation’s trademark application concerns its use of the logo for similar purposes.  Meanwhile, Gronkowski is also signed with Nike to endorse its products.

Nike’s Trademark Opposition

In its notice of opposition filed with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, Nike contends that Gronk Nation’s logo would lead to public confusion and cause Nike “grave and irreparable damage.” Nike claims that when compared side-to-side, the logos are so similar that Gronk Nation’s registration must be denied.  Nike also noted in its notice of opposition that Nike has successfully opposed logos that were similar to its Jumpman logo over the years.

Gronk Nation’s Defenses

The question remains, however, as to whether Nike’s current opposition filing will prevail. According to some observers, Gronk Nation may have some defenses.  First, although the logos may be similar, there are distinct visual differences between Michael Jordan dunking a basketball and Gronkowski spiking a football.

Additionally, each mark is unique and is connected to acts that are specific to different sports and the type of ball being displayed.  Moreover, the goods and services being offered by the two companies are sufficiently different and will not cause confusion in the marketplace or about the origin of the goods or services.

Of course, the fact that Gronkowski and Nike have an existing contract also plays a role in the dispute, as it is likely that Nike has exclusivity and non-compete language built into the deal. Gronk Nation had until August 5, 2017 to reply to Nike’s filing.  In the meantime, it is possible that the parties may be able to reach an amicable agreement.  Nonetheless, navigating a trademark opposition and cancellation proceeding requires the advice and counsel of experienced intellectual property attorneys.