Did Kobe Trademark Mamba? If So, What Happens Now?


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Since the passing of NBA star Kobe Bryant, you don’t have to look far to see Mamba being used. According to a 2014 interview with the New Yorker, Bryant gave himself the nickname “Black Mamba” as a way to separate his personal persona from who was on the basketball court.

Right now, many people are wondering, “What happens to Mamba now?” 

At the time of his death, Bryant had filed several trademark applications. Some have are registered while others are still in the approval process. Many of his applications were filed as intent to use.

Intent to use trademark applications indicate to the United States Patent and Trademark office that you’re not using the application in commerce right now, but you have a real intent to use the mark in the future. 

Most of Kobe Bryant’s applications were related to sports and apparel, including his sports academy “Mamba Sports Academy. He actually trademarked the name and several parts of the academy’s logo. 

Smart move, because at the end of the day, you want to protect all assets of your brand. 

Aside from is sport academy and clothing, Kobe also filed applications in the areas of sports trading cards, audio and video programing, and insulated containers for food and beverages.

Just last December of last year, the NBA star filed “Mambacita” as a trademark for his late daughter, Gianna Bryant. It was an intent to use application for clothing and apparel. 

As of recently, you may remember Bryant’s trademark battle with Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals over his long-time nickname, “Black Mamba. In that case the USPTO shut him down saying they would have to go to trial because the evidence shows there is still much to be determined, as far as likelihood of confusion. 

Interestingly enough, Bryant doesn’t have a trademark for “Mamba Out.” The application was initial filed as an intent to use however it was abandoned after he failed to file a Statement of Use. Remember, the Intent to Use application states that you have plans to use the mark in the future therefore the United States Patent and Trademark Office gives applicants six months to file either proof that you are using the mark in commerce or you have to file an extension of time to show that you’re actually using that trademark in commerce. 

This leads us to the question, “What happens next to Mamba, now that he has passed away?” 

To start, it’s important to know that Kobe Bryant didn’t personally own the trademark. They were owned by his company, Kobe Inc. therefore his passing doesn’t mean his rights are exhausted. Those rights live on through the company and the company will go on to fight those battles. 

So, for people who are using his likeness in t-shirts, on canvases, or have filed your own Mamba trademarks, be careful. Just because Kobe Bryant isn’t here doesn’t mean that those rights are free for everyone to use. 

It actually means that you’re infringing on someone’s trademark and using his likeness without the state’s permission. 

Use of likeness, is not a copyright or trademark so it’s not federally regulated. It is regulated by each state and each state has limited rights on what can be protected after death. 

For example, California has the use of likeness post mortem, which means that his estate controls how his persona, voice, images can be used.

If you would have more questions on trademarks for your own brand, I would love to hear from you! Simply visit contact my office to schedule a 15-minute assessment with my assistant, who will learn more about your business to make sure we’re a good fit for your needs. 

Additionally, if you’re looking to thrive in your business and avoid legal pitfalls while you scale, I would love for you to get on the waitlist for my 12-month program, the Launch Legally Incubator. 

Enrollment recently closed, but it will reopen soon in the future! You don’t want to miss a chance to be part of it, so go ahead and click here to be among the first to know when enrollment reopens! 

Talk to you soon!

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