– Draeke Weseman, Weseman Law Office, PLLC
What I do remember about that evening is that stores for dozens of miles around must have sold out of light blue paint, because nearly everyone had a stash, which was dumped indiscriminately over friends and strangers in a precursor to the Gatorade shower. I recall people wearing nothing but paint swinging from trees while cops stared in the other direction. – Tim Crothers, SI.com
On March 29, 1982, The University of North Carolina Tar Heels trailed the Georgetown Hoyas by a single point in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game. With 17 seconds left on the clock, a freshman shooting guard from Wilmington, North Carolina caught the ball on the left side of the court. He squared his shoulders, stuck out his tongue in concentration, and then smoothly sank the game-winning shot. Years later, Michael Jordan would look back on that clutch performance and call it the turning point in his career.
So what does this have to do with trademarks?
Well, it turns out that college-student-turned-author Tim Crothers wasn’t the only one who noticed light-blue paint everywhere. The University of North Carolina did, too. And, on October 17, 1982, just months after Michael Jordan’s famous shot, the University officially announced its trademark licensing program. Over the next 25 years, the UNC program would grow to become a behemoth in trademark-licensing, ranking number one in college sports from 2000-2005. Today, although trailing the football-dominant programs of Alabama, Florida, and a few others, the portfolio still earns almost $4 million each year. Remarkably, 100% of trademark-licensing revenue is used by the University for need-based and merit-based scholarships.
The portfolio includes the University’s names, nicknames, logos, colors, and even the following basketball jersey:
Registered on January 8, 2013, it appears that the North Carolina 00 mark is the first and only college basketball jersey registered as a federal trademark.
So, as you watch the next buzzer-beater drop in this year’s March Madness tournament, ask yourself: “Did I just witness the birth of the next Michael Jordan . . . or the next big college trademark portfolio?”
Then go buy some paint.