• Christina Simpson, ESQ.

All Hail Black Mamba!!

All Hail Black Mamba!!!!!! That’s how all you Kobe Bryant fans feel about Kobe, right?  As you all continue to wear his jerseys and dawn his black and gold custom Nikes. I mean Kobe did lead an amazing 20 year career with the NBA, playing for a single team: the Los Angeles Lakers.  So, rightfully deserved is the world wide fame and extensive fan base of Kobe’s. Over his 20 year career, Kobe tagged the nickname “Black Mamba” or just “Mamba” for short, and, apparently that is what his fans refer to him as.

Although the mark, “Black Mamba”, has not actually been registered with the USPTO, an application was submitted on May 2, 2016 by Kobe, Inc. However, as early as 2007 Kobe has granted others, including Kobe, Inc. a license to use the name “Black Mamba” or “Mamba” in association with the sale of items such as shirts, athletic footwear, hats, uniforms, posters, trading cards, backpacks, phone cases, water bottles and products relating to athletic performance and sports nutrition.  Nike, Inc, even declared April 13 to be “Mamba Day.” So, it is quite surprising that someone would attempt to register a mark even remotely similar to the star athlete.

However, Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals did just that with its July 26, 2017 application for “Black Mamba Hyperrush” in connection with “dietary and nutritional supplements.”  Obviously, Kobe, Inc. has submitted opposition papers against this mark’s registration, stating that dietary and nutritional supplements are “naturally and undoubtedly connected to sports, sports performance, athletics, fitness and athletic performance,” as such, such a registration would likely cause confusion in duping people into believing these supplements are related to Kobe.  Kobe, Inc., even addresses Kobe’s partnership with Nike, Inc., claiming that Nike, Inc.’s use of the term “Hyper” in connection with many of its sports related products.

Its questionable as to whether Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals is purposely attempting to bank on the Kobe name and image with its attempted registration of “Black Mamba Hyperrush”, but this does bring up several valid points.  One, being, whether there are enough Kobe fans to warrant an automatic assumption that “Black Mamba Hyperrush” is Kobe related. I mean, personally, I didn't even make the initial connection at first between the two, but I could be part of a very small subset of the population.  The other issue this brings up, is whether the nickname “Black Mamba” constitutes a name of a living individual, as is meant by the USPTO. If so, Kobe, Inc.’s argument that the use of the nickname by Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals is without the consent of Kobe and thus in violation of the trademark law may very well be a strong one.  It will be interesting to see how the TTAB decides this one and whether they, too, agree that “Black Mamba” is synonymous with Kobe.

If you are interested in trademark law, or trademarking your own brand, please read my article on “Why Trademarking is So Important for the Start-Up Company,” and contact me with any questions or concerns you may have.

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