Athletes and Their Trademark Rights Debated at UT Sports Law Symposium

This month, Pete Reid was invited to be a guest speaker at the 4th annual Sports Law Symposium. The event, hosted by the Texas Review of Entertainment and Sports Law (TRESL), took place on September 13, 2013 at the University of Texas School of Law.

With video games like “FIFA 14” and “Madden NFL,” the lifelike experience of playing professional and college sports is now at the finger tips of the enthusiastic sports fan; and in recent years, media headlines have zeroed in on the issue of trademarking an athlete’s image and likeness. The ongoing O’Bannon v. NCAA case, for example, questions whether student athletes should be compensated for the use of their likeness in video games, and it has become a household reference in the discussion of this issue. Interest in the topic has sparked nationwide debate and infiltrated the realm of scholarly discussion.

Panelists and guests alike gathered in the Eidman Courtroom to hear about today’s hottest legal topics in entertainment and sports. Pete served as the moderator of a panel entitled “What’s in a Name?: Athletes Asserting Their Trademark Rights.” Beginning with a quiz for the audience, Pete set in motion a conversation about the trademark rights of professional and college athletes.

In the spotlight of discussion was the O’Bannon case mentioned above. Panelists and fellow sports lawyers Mr. Alan Milstein, Mr. Christian Dennie, and Mr. Steven Espenshade gave their predictions of the case’s outcome and how it might alter the world of college sports. If the lawsuit were to be a victory for O’Bannon, student athletes may receive compensation beyond scholarships, posing a potential challenge to the NCAA amateurism model.

At the invitation of the panel, former Pete Reid Law intern Tristan Griffin provided the delegates with their own halftime entertainment demonstrating a few signature celebration dances from America’s most popular sports players. Anyone familiar with “Tebowing” or “Kaepernicking?” Nothing short of entertaining, the performance was an amusing and unexpected surprise for the panel’s audience.

The 90-minute panel discussion concluded with an audience Q&A and a broader discussion about the legal challenges facing college sports and NFL teams, including the ongoing controversy over the name of Pete’s favorite team the Washington Redskins.

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