By: Mark R. Malek
Anyone who knows me knows that I am an avid (and sometimes rabid) fan of the New York Jets. Therefore, it is no surprise that my email inbox this morning was flooded with links to a story that Tim Tebow’s attorney has sent a cease & desist letter to a T-Shirt company that is making the T-Shirt pictured below. The letter can be found here.
As we indicated in some previous articles, cease & desist letters are a good starting point for enforcing your intellectual property rights. For more information, take a look at the articles here, here and here. Some of these articles are directed to protecting your patent rights, and some are directed to protecting your trademark rights. Either way, a cease and desist notice is one in which the intellectual property owner merely informs the alleged infringer of their rights, and demands that any further infringement be stopped.
Back to the story at hand, as you can see, the shirt in question changes the current New York Jets logo to read “MY Jesus” instead of “NY Jets.” So I guess my question is what intellectual property right is Tim Tebow attempting to protect? The letter indicates that the shirt makes it appear as if Tim Tebow endorses the T-shirt company. Really? I am trying to figure out why that would be. Is Tim Tebow the only Jets fan that believes in Jesus (I can say for a fact he is not – I’m one!!)
Of course, when my anti-Jets fan friends (especially the dang Dolphin fans and the Patriot fans) found out about the story, it made for the same joke over and over again – Even Tim Tebow thinks he’s Jesus! Aghh! Enough already. I suspect that young Mr. Tebow does not really understand the ins and outs of intellectual property law and why his overzealous attorney is sending out letters like this. Granted, Tim Tebow, like the rest of us, does enjoy a right to his own likeness, but it is not as though there is a trademark issue here for Tim Tebow, and if this is about a right to his likeness, then what likeness is being protected. Does he really think that a reference to Jesus in connection with football is a reference to him? News flash – there have been plenty of very talented NFL players that believe in and worship Jesus long before Tim Tebow came around.
At best, there may be a trademark issue for NFL Properties, who I believe is the owner of all the NFL logos, or perhaps even the NY Jets. There is likely even a copyright issue here. Technically, the NY Jets logo (in all its glory) is afforded copyright protection. Therefore, this T-shirt can technically be thought of as a derivative work. With that in mind, not one of these intellectual property rights is Tim Tebow’s to assert. To the owners of Chubby Tees – I would be pleased to respond to Mr. Tebow’s attorney for you. Side note – Before the Florida Bar asks, I am not soliciting business…I just want to have some fun with the response to the attorney that thinks the name of Jesus is the same as an endorsement by Tim Tebow!