Sports fans remember what happened just four months ago, though it seems like four years ago. Jeremy Lin became a phenomenon, and why not? From zero to hero, Harvard-drafted benchwarmer to MVP candidate, and then he was gone. But his brand remains.
And Lin wisely registered his catchphrase with the United States Patent and Trademark Office soon after blowing up on the court. Of course, Lin doesn’t need to trademark anything to use the term on everything from fragrances to aluminum water bottles, but registering a mark allow him to prevent others from using his mark.
Despite Lin’s injury and the fact that he basically hasn’t played since March, the market is there. Like most marketable celebrities, Lin has defended his marks, sending cease and desist letters to those trying to profit from his celebrity in any way imaginable, or maybe just being trademark trolls.
According to the New York Times, the USPTO recently sent five attempted registrants initial refusals, on the basis that they lacked Lin’s consent to register the trademark and convey a false connection to him.
As a distinctive term which inherently references him, Lin basically gets the benefit of the doubt that the term “Linsanity” is his.
The real question is whether Lin has any staying power. Without the benefit of surprise, will Lin be able to outplay opponents on a level court? Will he play in New York next year? The Asian market is ripe for the picking, now that Yao Ming is retired. Will Lin be as popular in Asia as David Hasselfhoff is in Germany, even if his skills are mediocre at best? The appeal in Asia remains strong, and during the Linsanity craze, Coca-Cola Co. added courtside advertisements in Chinese at Madison Square Garden to capitalize on Lin’s appeal.
For marketing purposes, Lin would be wise to stay in New York, though it remains to be seen whether New York is still interested.