On May 24, 2019, Tom Brady, with the help of his representatives at TEB Capital Management Inc. Corporation, filed a trademark application for the nickname “Tom Terrific” to almost unanimous frustration. Brady is filing for rights to use TOM TERRIFIC on “T-shirts; shirts” as well as “Collectable trading cards; sports trading cards; posters; printed photographs.” Previously held trademarks of the same name have been exclusively for animated cartoon series and coloring books.
Particularly upset by the announcement are any and all New York Mets fans, who associate the name with beloved former pitcher, Tom Seaver. The New York Mets had this to say on twitter:
“Hey @uspto, with all due respect to @TomBrady…There’s only one #TomTerrific to us. #LGM #Mets.”
This plea to the United States Patent and Trademark Office was accompanied by a photo of Seaver. People magazine reports one Mets fan referring to Brady as a ‘vulture’ due to the unfortunate timing of Brady’s trademark request, just months after Seaver’s family announced his dementia diagnosis and subsequent backing down from public life. The trademark application also coincides closely with the announcement of plans to build a statue to “Tom Terrific” (Tom Seaver) at the Mets stadium.
According to local New York news, Twitter isn’t the only outlet for Mets fans to protest. Many Mets fans, including former teammate of Seaver, Art Shamsky, gathered at an Upper East Side Restaurant in early June for what they called a “Boston T.B.” Party. The fans will dump jerseys and any Tom Brady merchandise into garbage bags, which will be filled with beans. The restaurant, Soujourn, will be providing free beer and select foods.
Because of the apparent widespread use of “Tom Terrific” as a nickname for Seaver, evident from the total public denouncement of Brady’s trademark attempt, some have guessed the USPTO will not grant the use of the TOM TERRIFIC trademark to Brady. Trademark Attorney Nicholas Wells of Legends Law Group explains that “The USPTO won’t register a trademark that includes the name of a living person—or that refers to or identifies a living person—without the consent of that person. The question here is whether the trademark examiner will understand that “Tom Terrific” brings to mind Tom Seaver for many people, rather than Tom Brady. If they do, they will refuse Tom Brady’s trademark application.”
Tom Seaver’s fame is another possible consideration in the USPTO’s trademark analysis process. Seaver was considered one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball back in 1969. He won the Cy Young Award and lead the “Miracle Mets” to a surprising World Series title. He went on to pitch for 20 years and won over 300 games. His nickname was well-earned before Tom Brady started playing football; actually, before Tom Brady was born.
The New York Post has described the tendency for many sports players to share nicknames. But we haven’t found another case where one of these players attempted to claim sole legal ownership of a shared nickname. One New York Post writer calls Brady’s move to “steal” the nickname of someone that came before him “weasel-ly.” In any case, Brady has many more nicknames that he goes by, so why is he singling out the one? He enjoys monikers such as “Touchdown Tom” (unlikely to be taken by any famous baseball players), “The Pharaoh,” “Comeback Kid,” and “Sir.” Brady has been dubbed these names by fans clearly seeking to give him more righteous standing than merely “terrific.”
If the staff assigned by the USPTO to examine Tom Brady’s trademark application are not familiar with Tom Seavers, Attorney Nicholas Wells notes that Mr. Seavers has the option of filing a Letter of Protest at the USPTO to inform them about this issue. Whether a collection of random, annoyed fans would have standing to submit a Letter of Protest is another matter.
Tom Brady has not indicated whether he believes that he alone should be allowed to use the nickname “Tom Terrific,” or if he had any prior knowledge of Tom Seaver’s claim to that name.