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Johnny Manziel sues over shirt - The Eagle: News

Johnny Manziel sues over shirt

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Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 12:36 am, Wed Feb 27, 2013.

First there was Johnny Manziel, then Johnny Football and eventually Johnny Heisman.

Now, there's Johnny Plaintiff.

News broke late last week that a company representing the star quarterback filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking a halt to the sale of T-shirts, compensation for alleged trademark infringement, reimbursement for court fees and exemplary damages in excess of the trademark compensation.

A&M officials said the move is necessary to protect Manziel's "Johnny Football" trademark, from which he could one day profit. But at least one pundit has voiced concern that the money the amateur athlete could net from the lawsuit exposes a loophole in NCAA rules.

The lawsuit targets Eric Vaughan of Fairview, owner of the website, which has been selling $19.99 men's and women's maroon T-shirts that say "Keep Calm and Johnny Football." The Eagle could not reach Vaughan for comment. He does not have a lawyer listed in any of the court filings.

A December cease-and-desist letter from Manziel's lawyer did not dissuade shirt production, and as of Tuesday the website was still live. However, the website reverted to and appeared to be peddling an "edicion limited" Spanish-language version reading "Keep calm and Juanny Fútbol."

The trademark for "Johnny Football" was filed on Feb. 2 by Manziel's limited liability company, JMAN2 Enterprises L.L.C. The trademark, which has been in the works since mid-football season, is pending, but doesn't need to be federally registered for an ownership claim.

Tyler lawyer Bennett White represents JMAN2 Enterprises, L.L.C. White reaffirmed the lawsuit is to protect the A&M star. He said the L.L.C. is operated by a manager, not Manziel, so that the student athlete can focus on going to college.

Still, White said, Manziel knew of the trademark lawsuit and stands behind the litigation.

White wouldn't comment on specific details in the lawsuit, but said that overall the hope is to send a strong message to others.

"The reason to seek damages would be to avoid having to file lots and lots of lawsuits because people may be willing to monitor their behavior and honor their rights," White said.

David Batson, A&M director of athletic compliance, said the sale of shirts does not endanger Manziel's eligibility, but it jeopardizes his trademark "Johnny Football." If Manziel allows unlicensed use of his trademark, Batson said, the courts could see it as abandoned, thus jeopardizing future moneymaking once Manziel is not bound by NCAA regulations.

Shane Hinckley, Texas A&M assistant vice president of business development, said that the university is not part of the trademark lawsuit against Vaughan. However, his department pursues A&M trademark infringements, and oftentimes those overlap.

He said concerned citizens have sent notice of possible infringements to Manziel's lawyers, his department, University President R. Bowen Loftin and Manziel's parents. Hinckley said the university has sent more than 60 cease-and-desist letters related to Manziel, and successfully removed more than 900 infringing items off of Ebay.

Trademark infringement, Hinckley said, misleads people into thinking Manziel or the university supports merchandise or messages that they do not, and essentially steals money typically slated for student scholarships, athletic scholarships, university marketing and the Bonfire memorial maintenance fund.

"A great question that people should understand is that, 'Does Johnny or does he not support or endorse this shirt?' Hinckley said. "He does not."

It is unclear how much money Manziel could take home from lawsuit. Neither A&M nor White could say, but White added there's no award ceiling in federal court. The financial situation of Manziel, who bought himself courtside seats to the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks basketball in December, is not known publicly.

A&M recently received a NCAA ruling that states Manziel can pocket the cash from the the lawsuit without forfeiting his amateur status, meaning Manziel could legitimately earn thousands of dollars from his exploits on the field and maintain his amateur status.

Sportswriter Clay Travis with raised the concern that sports boosters could intentionally infringe on trademarks, get sued by student athletes, and thus legally funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to student athletes. Travis called it a loophole big enough to drive a Rolls-Royce through that could potentially impact other student athletes across the nation, and their decision of which university to attend.

Hinckley was emphatic that Vaughan was not conspiring with Manziel or A&M.

"I can absolutely guarantee he's not a booster," he said.

When asked if there are any NCAA rules or guidelines in place to keep boosters from purposely getting sued by a student athlete for trademark infringement, a NCAA spokeswoman deferred comment to A&M.

"There are rules in place that would prohibit someone from using the legal system as a loophole," said Batson. "This intent to provide a student-athlete a benefit is still going to circumvent the rules even if you try to game the system and pull one over on a judge. NCAA rules already address that."

Still, there is no end in sight for Manziel's competitive spirit: Both the university and Manziel's personal lawyers have their sights set on others who might be guilty of trademark infringement.

"There are other incidences similar to this that are being reviewed for possible additional legal litigation by both parties," Hinckley said.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • Sabio posted at 7:30 am on Sun, Mar 3, 2013.

    Sabio Posts: 1176

    Pretty ironic.."Don't hate". Yet you offered a pretty hateful condemnation of Manziel's motives for being here, and questioned his love of Texas A&M.

    The old, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" seems pretty applicable here.....


  • Sabio posted at 7:26 am on Sun, Mar 3, 2013.

    Sabio Posts: 1176

    SDW, based on WHAT do you make that asinine assertion? What has he said or done that indicates he's not as dedicated as anyone who wears the ring?

    How is he any different than any one of the thousands of Aggies who graduate annually? Kinda hateful toward the guy, aren't ya?

  • Sabio posted at 7:23 am on Sun, Mar 3, 2013.

    Sabio Posts: 1176 about learning a bit more about the subject before you spout off. Texas A&M licenses the 12th Man name to Seattle, and Seattle has an exclusive arrangement with Texas A&M. That came as a result of a lawsuit A&M filed against Seattle. A&M has aggressively defended the use of the 12th Man name, most recently last season when the Washington Redskins tried to trot it out. The season before it was Denver.

    Really, really uninformed comment.

  • Sabio posted at 7:21 am on Sun, Mar 3, 2013.

    Sabio Posts: 1176

    Wow, pretty ignorant comment from a faculty member. Many, MANY students at A&M take online classes. His reasoning is as valid as theirs. He doesn't want to be a distraction in class, which he found out he was the first week of class. That's when he adjusted his schedule to talk all online classes. As an instructor, how would you feel if half of your class time was taken up with students wanting to get pictures with Johnny?

    Completely insensitive and ignorant comment, yours was.

  • prairiegirl posted at 7:26 am on Sat, Mar 2, 2013.

    prairiegirl Posts: 424

    Toad, aside from your either horrid typing or sad misuse of words or misspelling, what are you referring to?

  • toad posted at 10:06 am on Fri, Mar 1, 2013.

    toad Posts: 16

    Johnny, I will wait until you can produce the t-shirts yourself. Thanks for standing up for yourself and what is right.

  • toad posted at 10:03 am on Fri, Mar 1, 2013.

    toad Posts: 16

    I have read prairriegirls comments here and about bulling. When are peopl going to get rid of this pitful thought process that at the root of most of our problems in todayes society?

  • idaho duncan posted at 7:22 pm on Thu, Feb 28, 2013.

    idaho duncan Posts: 16

    Do you always post your rants as massive paragraph-length titles, what with all the words capitalized?

  • prairiegirl posted at 6:13 am on Thu, Feb 28, 2013.

    prairiegirl Posts: 424

    Jmo & bbfan, No, I personally would never try to make money off the back of my child. Now if Johnny Manziel ends up in the NFL someday and makes money that way that's one thing. But to hurt someone else who is just trying to most likely feed his family because he used some WORDS on t-shirts, well I find that appalling and insensitive and uncaring for one's own race; the human race. Any mom who would encourage her child to sue another for such a reason needs to rethink what she is teaching her son and other young men and women and even her future grandchildren. Everything about this johnny football b>s just screams money, money, money. One side note, Jmo, before you tell others they can't read, the name is Manziel, NOT Manzell.

  • ftw posted at 7:45 pm on Wed, Feb 27, 2013.

    ftw Posts: 1075

    And the Seahawks are still using the 12th man too. So what's your point.

  • mart80 posted at 2:52 pm on Wed, Feb 27, 2013.

    mart80 Posts: 87

    I'm sorry ,times have changed and so maybe yourself. Whether you've noticed or not there are hundreds of thousands that are taking on-line courses. This is'nt something that started yesterday.Just because your not face to face with a teacher does'nt make you incapable of learning.A book is still provided correct?

  • oleman posted at 2:41 pm on Wed, Feb 27, 2013.

    oleman Posts: 5

    He Won't Make It In The NFL.. Truth.

  • Aggieprof posted at 2:06 pm on Wed, Feb 27, 2013.

    Aggieprof Posts: 137

    You put the finger one wound:

    Football players at A&M are not students and anymore, not even people, but "products" generating revenue. And the football program a business.

    " He‘s serious about his academic degree ": I wouldn't say that. He is taking form online courses in sports management as reported by The Houston Chronicle.

  • mart80 posted at 1:17 pm on Wed, Feb 27, 2013.

    mart80 Posts: 87

    The circus continues, with success ,comes scrutiny.

  • oleman posted at 12:25 pm on Wed, Feb 27, 2013.

    oleman Posts: 5

    Are You Serious. Get Off The Breast Milk Kid, And Start Changeing Your Own Diapers And Wipeing Your Self. When You Can Win The Big One Or At Least Say You Played In It Then You Can Do Something This Stupid. Until Then Lap Up Your Own Milk And Go To School Like All The Other Little Johnnie's And Nancy's.[beam]

  • bbfan22 posted at 12:12 pm on Wed, Feb 27, 2013.

    bbfan22 Posts: 106

    The Manziel’s are only doing what any business does to protect its “products” from being pirated by forgers who profit illegally from the fruit of those business’ efforts. In Manziel’s case, he is protecting FUTURE revenue he may earn from his athletic abilities and persona. He is not getting a dime from “Johnny Football” right now, but stands to earn millions when he’s no longer bound by NCAA rules. Who wouldn’t want to protect that kind of future windfall? Do you think Ford would allow some guy to print their logo on a T-shirt and sell it for profit without compensating Ford? Not on your life. It’s theirs and no one else’s. It belongs to them. They would do the same thing Manziel is doing to protect their trademarked logo. Using it without permission is stealing.

    Would any of you pessimists and haters NOT do the same? If you say you wouldn’t, then you’re bald-faced liars. Recall the lawsuit A&M filed several years ago against the Seattle Seahawks when they used A&M’s trademarked “Home of the 12th Man” logo? That logo had been trademarked by A&M decades before Seattle started using it. A&M sued for the same reason the Manziels are suing. The logo BELONGS to Texas A&M, just like the Ford logo belongs to the Ford Motor Company.

    For those who decry Manziel’s lifestyle, get a life of your own and stop obsessing about his. He’s an exceptionally talented athlete who is also a successful student. He’s taking a full load of online classes because of the distraction from fans when he’s in public. Just ask any celebrity what that’s like and they’ll tell you it’s not a bed of roses, but something that has to be dealt with very carefully. This is how JM deals with his celebrity while he’s a student. He‘s serious about his academic degree because that’s the way his parents raised him. How he gets it is no one’s business but his. Also, he has his own money because his father is successful. How much money he gets from his parents or how he spends it is not controlled NCAA rules, and it’s not your business, either.

  • SDW posted at 11:56 am on Wed, Feb 27, 2013.

    SDW Posts: 173

    Your opinion vs. mine. Don't hate.

  • JMO posted at 10:06 am on Wed, Feb 27, 2013.

    JMO Posts: 223

    And the (jealous) badmouthers at this website strike again. Any one of you, in Manziel's position, would do exactly as he and his family have done-- if you we're intelligent enough to do so. After all, who should benefit by his accomplishments? The university? (It already is.) Some other anonymous quick-thinker who trademarks "Johnny Football" because the Manzell's don't? Would any of you pass up the legal opportunity to make money?

    Some of you need to READ. The Manzells had their attorney contact the seller to stop violating the trademark. Apparently he doesn't read, either, because he continued to sell. I don't feel sorry for him. He's not smart enough to be in business successfully.

    And to SDW, whether or not is a "diehard Aggie," or not has nothing to do anything at all. He's at the university for the same reason every other student is there-- to build a successful future.

  • Joe posted at 8:32 am on Wed, Feb 27, 2013.

    Joe Posts: 14

    I'll bet they could really make some money off of those talking T shirts. You know. The ones that "say" : keep calm and johnny football.

  • Zippy posted at 8:05 am on Wed, Feb 27, 2013.

    Zippy Posts: 91

    Wonder if Johnny learned all this in an online class? Or in a casino? Or party? Or bar? This kid is a train wreck waiting to happen.

  • SDW posted at 7:02 am on Wed, Feb 27, 2013.

    SDW Posts: 173

    That's the way it works. It's all about him. He's not really a DEVOTED, DIEHARD Aggie either. He's just here for the free ride. Once he gets his mailorder aggie ring he will be on his way to the nfl.

  • hotdog posted at 6:43 am on Wed, Feb 27, 2013.

    hotdog Posts: 344

    This is bad and distracting from a kid who has enough weight on his shoulders. Just like the copyright to atm I find such limitations to be sick. Sorry jmo.

  • ftw posted at 6:21 am on Wed, Feb 27, 2013.

    ftw Posts: 1075

    And they say college football is not all about the money.

  • prairiegirl posted at 5:01 am on Wed, Feb 27, 2013.

    prairiegirl Posts: 424

    Frankly I find this whole 'name' business sickening. Johnny and his mom will make a small fortune and some guy just trying to pay his bills will now have his life ruined by the Manziel family. Where is the compassion for others? I say the Manziel family needs to drop the 'name' business and just stick with calling their son by his given name and quit trying to make the almighty fast buck!


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