January 09, 2014

Gus Malzahn's "Hurry Up No Huddle" Trademark Strategy

by Guest Blogger


Gus Malzahn's Auburn Tigers might have lost the BCS National Championship Game, but the future is bright for the first-year Auburn head coach and his program. Auburn could be an SEC and national title contender again next year as it returns star quarterback Nick Marshall.

Malzahn's up-tempo spread offense is his trademark. He literally wrote the book on the subject. As a high school coach in Arkansas, Malzahn wrote the book, The Hurry-Up, No-Huddle: An Offensive Philosophy. This season, his hurry-up, no-huddle offense set school marks for total and rushing yards and became the first SEC team to lead the nation in rushing.

Malzahn is now looking to capitalize on his success on the field by filing trademark applications for the phrase associated with his offense. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office records show that Malzahn's Arkansas-based company called HUNH, LLC, has pending applications to register HURRY UP NO HUDDLE and HUNH for glassware and clothing.

It's not just Malzahn's offensive philosophy that has become famous. Gus Malzahn himself has become a brand name, which has lead to valuable endorsement deals. According to The Birmingham News, Malzahn assigns all of his personal endorsement rights to Auburn in exchange for $900,000 per year. Malzahn keeps his rights for instructional-type videos or publications unless he uses footage or photos of Auburn games or videos.

Malzahn's growing popularity has forced Auburn to play defense at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. IMG College, the marketer of Auburn athletics, recently filed Notices of Opposition against C.O. Branded Corporation's applications to register GUS BUS and IN GUS WE TRUST for apparel. According to the Notices:

Since as early as 2005, Coach Malzahn has been well known throughout the nation as a college football coach who has excelled in his profession. As a consequence, Coach Malzahn enjoys an excellent reputation as a college football coach, whereby his endorsement of various products is of great commercial value.

IMG claims it stands to make "considerable revenue" from the use of marks associated with Malzahn. IMG contends that allowing C.O. Branded Corporation to register GUS BUS and IN GUS WE TRUST would constitute a false designation of origin of the goods sold with the marks, would adversely affect IMG's business relations with its licensees, would falsely represent that Malzahn has endorsed products on which the marks used, and would create a false suggestion of connection between C.O. Branded Corporation and IMG. C.O. Branded Corporation has not responded to IMG's allegations yet.

Surprisingly, Auburn and IMG have yet to file a trademark application to register Gus Malzahn's name. Such a registration would provide considerable leverage against potential infringers like C.O. Branded Corporation. Other colleges and coaches have already taken steps to protect their valuable intellectual property. Last November, USA Today published a story about the growing number of college football coaches with trademarked names. Ohio State is in the process of trademarking coach Urban Meyer's name and the phrase URBAN MEYER KNOWS. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney also owns trademark registrations for his name. Given Auburn's spectacular success on the football field, I expect Gus Malzahn will be joining this trend soon.

In addition, maybe he or Auburn should also consider registering "Kick Six."

The lawyers at Trademarkology provide trademark registration services backed by the experience and service of one of the nation's oldest law firms. Click here to begin the process of protecting your brand name with a federally registered trademark.