Former WWE star Ryback has promised legal action against Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott for his use of the phrase “Feed Me.” Mr. Elliott recently tattooed the phrase across his stomach, and in a recent trademark application disclosed his intention to use the mark in commerce on T-shirts and other merchandise. But Ryback claims he already owns the trademark.
Lynn Pinker Hurst & Schwegmann trademark attorney Chris Schwegmann says athletes, performers, and others in the public eye risk liability under trademark law for their unauthorized use of a trademark – even if only in the form of a tattoo. He adds, Mr. Elliott may have some liability for his use of the “Feed Me” mark if “it creates a likelihood of confusion with Ryback’s trademark.”
But such a case would be no easy score for Ryback. “Elliott uses a similar, but different trademark,” said Mr. Schwegmann. “Mr. Elliott wants to register the phrase ‘Feed Me,’ which he tattooed on his stomach. Ryback, by contrast, appears to own a number of trademark registrations for ‘Feed Me More.’”
“Ryback’s most relevant trademark was registered on Nov. 14, 2017. Although it is registered, it is not incontestable. If sued, Mr. Elliott would likely argue that he used the mark in commerce prior to Ryback registering it. And, as it turns out, “there are a lot of existing trademarks that use the words ‘feed me,’ both alone and in connection with other words, registered on the Principal Register at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The fact that both parties purport to use their respective trademarks in a crowded field supports Mr. Elliott because, in such cases, minor differences in the wording of a trademark typically dispel any possible consumer confusion.”
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