Sports Trademarks Gone Wrong: Just Who is “FitzMagic”?

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office refused to grant a trademark in “FitzMagic” to Minkah Fitzpatrick, as the term is more closely related to Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Miami Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick filed a trademark application for the nickname “FitzMagic” back in September 2018.  Minkah sought to trademark “FitzMagic” since it has been his nickname since high school.  By registering “FitzMagic” as a trademark, Minkah would be able to exclusively sell “FitzMagic” merchandise and prevent others from doing so.

Minkah “FitzMagic” ran into one major problem: being in the NFL with another, more well-known Fitzpatrick.  When the name “FitzMagic” comes to mind, the average NFL fan is more likely to think of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has certainly made a name and reputation for himself in the League.  Had Minkah successfully received a registered trademark for “FitzMagic,” Ryan would be unable to unable to use the term for his own marketing, even if the public continued to call him “FitzMagic.”

Fortunately for Ryan Fitzpatrick, the PTO refused to grant Minkah Fitzpatrick the “FitzMagic” trademark.  The Trademark Act Section 2(a) prohibits registration of trademarks that “may falsely suggest a connection with persons, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols.”  In order for a mark to falsely suggest a connection with a person or an institution, the PTO requires that:

“(1)       The mark sought to be registered is the same as, or a close approximation of, the name or identity previously used by another person or institution.

(2)       The mark would be recognized as such, in that it points uniquely and unmistakably to that person or institution.

(3)       The person or institution identified in the mark is not connected with the goods sold or services performed by applicant under the mark.

(4)       The fame or reputation of the named person or institution is of such a nature that a connection with such person or institution would be presumed when applicant’s mark is used on its goods and/or services.”

Essentially, this means that one cannot register a trademark in a name or nickname of another famous person, so long as it leads people to presume a connection that does not exist.

Here, the PTO found that “FitzMagic” is a “well known and widely publicized nickname for Ryan Fitzpatrick” and that it is “uniquely and unmistakably associated with [him].”  Simply put, many people associate “FitzMagic” with Ryan, not Minkah.  If Minkah were to get the mark and use it on merchandise, the public would be confused and think it was related to Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Overall, the PTO decided correctly here, preventing a slew of confusion arising from the term “FitzMagic.”  Sure, this decision negatively impacts Minkah Fitzpatrick’s personal brand, especially as his nickname is derived from his own name.  However, the public is better served when the PTO prevents substantial trademark confusion.

Photo Credit: Thomson200 and Jeffrey Beall

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Alex Betschen is a graduate of the University at Buffalo School of Law. He was a student attorney at UB’s Civil Liberties and Transparency Clinic, where he worked on cases involving government disclosure of private information and use of hacking tools. He also served as an Editor on the Buffalo Law Review and is an accomplished musician.

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