The famous athletic legend, Olympian 8-time gold-medallist, and world record holder for the 100m, 200 m and 4x100m relay, Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt, was always known to be a flamboyant and charismatic entertainer in the field of sport.
Even after retiring in 2017 from track and field, Usain Bolt’s renown has never faded from popular memory. Most particularly, his signature victory pose that he would make upon achieving a title finish.
Winning Moves in Sport
Many sportsmen have signature moves, or victory poses, or even dancing celebrations- from Shoaib Akhtar imitating an aeroplane upon scalping a wicket, to Paul Pogba, Peter Crouch, or Mario Balotelli’s victory moves upon scoring a goal, to several African football teams performing dances upon scoring a goal or winning a match, for example Ghana and South Africa at the 2010 football World Cup. In football, cricket, ice hockey or American football, victory celebrations add a fun element to the charged and exciting atmosphere in an arena and even allow fans to participate along with their favourite players, athletes or teams.
It is all a part of engaging with the spectators at large sporting events, such as the Olympics or the World Cup, that they are all too happy and enthusiastic to participate in, and upon frequent repetition on an international stage in front of not only a live audience, but also those watching it being broadcast, such moves tend to become associated with a single particular sportsman or team.
Are Such Marks Capable of Statutory Protection?
Signature poses or dance moves, at first glance, do not appear to be capable of protection as traditional trademarks per se. However, if we look at the definition of a trademark, i.e. as anything capable of “graphical representation”, if such a pose or move can be represented as an image, it becomes capable of registration as a trademark. In fact, trademark offices around the world, including India, have been granting protection even to motion trademarks, that are represented as short clips of moving images. As long as it can satisfy the criteria for being considered as a trademark, including graphical representation and utilization for the purpose of trade and commerce, there does not appear to be a bar to grant of trademark protection for such marks.
Usain Bolt’s Recent US Trademark Application
Recently, in August 2022, the Jamaican sporting legend Usain Bolt has applied to register his signature victory pose (as depicted in the photographs included above) as a trademark in the United States. He has applied as an individual (as opposed to through an IP rights holding company) as “Bolt, Usain St. Leo” for the mark represented (in silhouette form):
and described as “The mark consists of the silhouette of a man in a distinctive pose, with one arm bent and pointing to the head, and the other arm raised and pointing upward” in Classes 9, 14, 18, 25, 28, 41 and 43 under serial no. 97552042.It is evident that Bolt will be channelling his fame and popularity into merchandise such as apparel and accessories, footwear, sporting equipment and perhaps even chain restaurants!
Bolt’s Existing Registrations for his Victory Pose
Interestingly, this is not Bolt’s first registration for his famous victory pose, even in the US! He owned registration no. 4069022 in classes 9, 14, 16, 25, 28 and 41 up until June 2022, when it was cancelled by the USPTO for failing to satisfy use requirements. He still holds registration no. 4177904 for the mark in respect of class 18 in the US, however has presumably filed the fresh application to preserve his rights in the indicated classes.
Usain Bolt has already been successful in registering the mark in several countries around the world, of course in his home country of Jamaica (where he also has a
trademark registration for a figure of himself running: ), Barbados, Brazil, Australia, European Community, Canada, South Africa, Singapore, Mexico, Japan, Korea, China, Chile, Argentina, Russia, Thailand, and Hong Kong, among others.
The fact that his victory pose had already been immortalized through an emoji via PUMA’s “Boltmoji” keyboard (as shown below), launched at the time of the 2016 Rio Olympics, only adds to the recognition of his signature move:
Other Such Trademarks
Usain Bolt’s actions are not without precedent in the sporting and entertainment world. Another such pose mark is that of Chicago Bulls basketball legend, Michael Jordan’s infamous jumping dunk shot, immortalized through the Jumpman Device trademark for
Nike’s Jordan range of sneakers- , which is protected in several jurisdictions around the world and has gained global renown and reputation.
Welsh football star, Gareth Bale, also filed a trademark application in the UK in 2013 (UK00002657917) to trademark his heart shaped celebratory gesture, along with his jersey
number ‘11’ (‘Eleven of Hearts’), , which has since been successfully registered.
The late pop star, Michael Jackson has had his famous ‘Moonwalk’ dance steps
immortalized via trademark registration (no. 6108190) from the USPTO.
In India, the Air Jordan Jumpman Device mark/ has been successfully registered with the Trade Marks Registry under registration nos. 537614, 1083360, 1083361 and
1551293 in classes 18 and 25. It has even been successfully enforced in opposition proceedings against deceptively similar third party trademarks.
Bolt’s Indian Trademark Application
It is interesting to note that Usain Bolt filed for trademark registration for his iconic pose in India as far back as 2014 (claiming prior use since 2010) under application no. 2761230 in
classes 18, 25 and 28, for the mark (also containing his signature), which application is currently pending registration.
Given the precedent of registration of iconic pose marks in India (eg. Nike’s Jordan Jumpman Device), should Usain Bolt also achieve successful registration of his victory pose figure in India, his numerous fans here will only be too thrilled to own a piece of merchandise endorsed by the great athlete.
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