College basketball season is heating up, and teams are positioning themselves for the NCAA tournament. Long before the NCAA tournament became the preeminent showcase for young basketball players, the country's best talent was found on the Harlem Globetrotters.
The Harlem Globetrotters began in 1926 as the Savoy Big Five. Now more than 89 years and 20,000 games later, the team has become one of the most recognizable franchises in sports.
While the Globetrotters are known for their comedy and athleticism, they also have a history of playing "serious" basketball. On November 11, 2002, the Globetrotters played Vanderbilt during a three-week tour of playing college teams. I was in attendance as one of the all-time Commodore greats, Matt Freije, nailed a 18 foot fadeaway jumper at the buzzer to beat the Globetrotters 70-68. Coincidentally, a sophomore forward on that Vanderbilt squad, Corey Smith, would eventually wear the famous red, white and blue uniform himself after graduating from Vanderbilt.
The Globetrotters protect their famous brand through not only superior basketball skills but a diverse trademark portfolio. Most people think of trademarks as only brand names, but trademarks can also be slogans, symbols, designs, or combination of these things. But that’s not all. It could be a sound, a color, or even a smell. Pretty much anything can be a trademark as long as it identifies the source of goods and services and distinguishes them from the goods and services of others.
All of these different types of trademarks can be protected by federal trademark registrations. Federal trademark registration provides important legal benefits such as a presumption of nationwide validity and the right to use the ® symbol.
The Harlem Globetrotters' trademark portfolio includes federal registrations for the words HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS (U.S. Reg. No. 2374778) and the stylized version of the words HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS (U.S. Reg. No. 542474).
- They own a federal registration for their logo (U.S. Reg. No. 3286735).
So if you're looking for a game winning strategy for your brand, take a page from the Globetrotters playbook and secure federal protection for your trademarks. Our lawyers will develop a custom trademark strategy for your business for $775 that includes a professional trademark search and preparing a federal trademark application. Click here to get started. You can also schedule a free attorney consultation on our home page.
Author's Note: This post was originally published in April 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.