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What’s New in Trademark Law? NIL

NIL: Name, Image (photographs), Likeness (drawings, caricatures, silhouettes or other indirect means of identifying an athlete).

NIL is social media profiles, nicknames, slogans or catchphrases associated with an athlete.

It is common for professional athletes to be the face of everything from sportswear to breakfast cereal.

Until last year, however, colleges and universities could enter into sponsorship deals, but the athletes themselves could not. Several states started passing legislation allowing their student-athletes to sign sponsorship and endorsement deals so they could profit off their fame in college.

The Supreme Court ruled on June 21, 2021 in NCAA v. Alston that the NCAA ban on student-athlete compensation violated antitrust law.

On June 30, 2021, the NCAA approved a temporary policy allowing student-athletes in every state to profit from their name, image and likeness without blowing their amateur status and forfeiting their college eligibility. This policy will stay in place until federal legislation is passed to address the issue on a nationwide basis or the NCAA passes a final policy.

Two days later, NC Governor Roy Cooper signed an executive order that allows North Carolina college student-athletes to be compensated for licensing their name, image or likeness.

What does this mean for college athletes?

1. They can hire attorneys and agents to help them protect and license their name, image and likeness without losing eligibility.

2. They need to follow the NIL policies of their states and schools. In NC for example, athletes cannot enter into contracts that conflict with contracts their schools have signed or otherwise “negatively impact” their school.

3. They should file federal trademarks to protect their brand.

If you are a student-athlete interested in learning about the federal trademark process, please contact us here at Legal Direction.

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