Protecting Kobe Bryant’s Common Law Rights in “Black Mamba”

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Retired Los Angeles Lakers team member, Kobe Bryant, one of the best to ever play the game of basketball, has long been referred to by the nickname “Black Mamba.” Nike declared April 13, 2016 (Bryant’s final game in the NBA) as “Mamba Day.” According to one source, “Kobe Bryant gave himself the nickname “Black Mamba” after he watched the “Kill Bill” movies and saw an assassin given the same nickname. Bryant liked the name because the black mamba snake is aggressive and agile, and this is how Bryant wanted to play in his games.” One month after Bryant ended his career, Nike unveiled the Kobe 11 Muse Pack, which pays tribute to Kobe’s “Black Mamba” nickname. The shoes were designed with the actual black mamba snake in mind.

Bryant, filed an intent-to-use trademark application for “Black Mamba” on May 2, 2016, for a wide range of athletic apparel and footwear. The application is still pending. However, a few weeks earlier, on April 19, 2016, a Los Angeles based company, 47 / 72 Inc. filed an application for “The Black Mamba” for “online retail store services featuring shirts, hooded sweatshirts, sweatshirts, one­-piece clothing for babies, mobile electronics cases, posters, pillows, mugs, [and] tote bags.”

Recently, Bryant filed a notice of opposition against the 47 / 72 Inc. trademark application alleging he believes that he will be damaged if “The Black Mamba” is allowed to be registered. Relying on his common law rights in “Black Mamba,” the grounds for the Opposition are 1) False Suggestion of a Connection; 2) Mark Consists of Name of Living Individual Without His Consent and 3) Likelihood of Confusion. Unlike many countries, the United States confers trademark rights by use of the mark – not registration.

Interestingly, the Notice of Opposition alleges that the Applicant, 47 / 72 Inc. “has established a pattern and practice of filing applications for well-known and recognized names and phrases, including characters and phrases associated with companies like Disney or entertainers such as Taylor Swift, Beyoncé Knowles, and Jay Z. It is clear that Applicant is not the proper owner of these well-known and recognized terms and phrases, and that these filings are made in bad faith for the purpose of taking advantage of the goodwill associated with these marks.” To read the Opposition, click here.

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