*As most football fans know, the outset of many NFL games feature members of the starting offense or defense introducing himself by name and the university he attended.
On Nov. 6, during NBC’s telecast of a Sunday night match-up between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs took this moment to a whole new level by announcing his name as “Sizzle” and his alma mater as “Ball So Hard University.” [Watch below.]
Within a few days of the telecast, an entrepreneur named Brian Bussells applied for a trademark on “Ball So Hard University” so he could use it on T-shirts and other apparel. About 10 days later, Suggs, who actually attended Arizona State University, attempted his own trademark registration.
Now, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the two are fighting over who gets to use “Ball So Hard.”
Suggs is president and CEO of Team Sizzle Worldwide, an independent film company based in Baltimore, Maryland, which has made five low-budget movies to date. He’s also offering licensed “Ball So Hard” merchandise and has a Facebook page too.
After Team Sizzle registered a trademark, the company’s lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter to Bussells, who is also selling merchandise at BallSoHardU.com.
The legal notice says that use of the mark is false and misleading, creates confusion, and also violates Suggs’ rights of publicity.
Suggs’ menacing legal maneuvers have caused others selling “Balls So Hard” apparel to back down, but not Bussells. What’s going in Bussells’ favor is that he got to the trademark office first and Suggs might not have been the first to use the mark in commerce.
That honor seems to be enjoyed by Kanye West and Jay-Z, who rapped about how they “ball so hard” on their current single “N***s in Paris,” from their joint album released last year. [Watch below. Warning: NSFW!]
Suggs has acknowledged the inspiration, but he did take the joke further than the hip-hop superstars did by transforming it into a university.
If a lawsuit is filed, Suggs probably won’t find it convenient that he lives in Maryland, which doesn’t have an explicit publicity rights law on its books. One Maryland lawyer suggests that Suggs could instead use privacy laws to sue, but that Suggs will need to show that his persona is identifiable by use of “Balls So Hard” and that his peace of mind and dignity were damaged by the exploitation.