In April 2016, Rob Gronkowski’s new clothing and exercise equipment company, Gronk Nation, LLC, filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to trademark a silhouette of Gronkowski’s legendary Gronk spike for use on their products. Nike has filed a formal opposition, saying Gronk Nation’s logo could be confused with its “Jumpman” logo that the company has used since November 1987. Nike has trademark rights to use its logo in connection with clothing, footwear, sporting goods, hosting sporting events, and related products and services. Gronk Nation has applied to trademark its logo in connection with clothing, including hats, caps, shirts, T-shirts, jerseys, sweatshirts, pants, jackets, and rain jackets.
Gronkowski does not appear to have any plans of backing down and altering his new company’s logo. Through his attorney, Troy Carnite, the company released a statement “[m]y client, Rob Gronkowski, has created one of the most recognizable brands in sports today, and we are optimistic that we will resolve this with Nike amicably.”
Some believe that Nike has gone too far to protect their most important endorser, Michael Jordan. Jordan has long been protective of his image, even going so far as to state that anyone using the “Crying Jordan” meme that they better not try to make a dollar off it without him collecting all the royalties.
As of yet, Gronkowski’s logo has not been used anywhere, and was still in the stages of being approved for a trademark. Although it is possible to see how some might think that the Gronk Nation logo resembles Nike’s famous Jumpan silhouette, there are a few obvious differences as well. For instance, Gronkowski’s feet are planted, while Jordan’s are in the air. In addition, Gronkowski is clearly holding a football in the logo, not a basketball. Finally, the motion is downward, with the spike, as opposed to Jordan’s flight imagery.
Nike has the burden of proving to the Trademark Office that the use of the “Spikeman” together with the overall design and words and for the goods applied for will likely confuse consumers as to the origin of the mark. As U.S. Trademark law states that words dominate in a word/logo mark, the U.S. Trademark Office will put the most weight on words and not so much on the design.
Gronkowski is signed as one of Nike’s endorsers, and is currently one of their most recognizable athletes. He is responsible for adding millions of dollars to Nike’s revenue, and is likely not interested in jeopardizing his fruitful compensation by using his logo in a similar way as Nike uses its mark. Nike has locked up Gronkowski for such types of endeavors.
Although the Trademark Office would likely find that Gronkowski’s epic touchdown celebration is easily identifiable, as it has been a staple of his end zone shenanigans for years, Gronk Nation may want to avoid any clothing that too closely portrays Nike’s brand. This includes an advertisement for a complete rip-off tee that uses the phrase “Just Gronk It.” Nike would then follow their own words of advice in their approach for taking the case to court, and “Just do it.”