Tim Tebow, the New York Jets back-up quarterback, has moved one step closer to trademarking his signature move of “Tebowing.”  On October 9, the trademark was published for opposition, meaning that anyone who wants to oppose the registration has 30 days to file a substantiated claim.  If no one does, then Tim Tebow will officially own “Tebowing.”

The phrase and act of “Tebowing” became popular earlier this year when Tebow, after leading the Denver Broncos to a series of comeback wins, was photographed bowing in prayer in the end zone on one knee, helmet to clenched fist.

Image by Jeffrey Beall

Quickly after Kleinstein’s application was rejected, an organization owned by Tim Tebow (XV Enterprises LLC) filed an application to claim the trademark.  However, Tebow claims that he does not want to use the trademark for commercial purposes but wants “to just control how it’s used, make sure it’s used the right way.” Yet, if he does not use the trademark for commercial purposes, then he may lose his rights to it.

Furthermore, if Tim Tebow does enforce his trademark rights, this act could set an interesting precedent in terms of religious expression.  While the government cannot tell us how to worship, Tim Tebow can.  If Tebow can trademark this religious pose, can the Catholic Church trademark the making of the sign of the cross?  Could Muslims trademark the act of bowing towards Mecca?

Brooke McLeod

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10 Responses to Could Tim Tebow Make You Pay to Pray?

  1. Mike Ritter says:

    I think that both an image (like from the website tebowing.com) and the phrase could be trademarks, but the actual act, probably not. Furthermore, it’s unclear why Tebow would have the right to those trademarks, without some plan to use it in commerce. Trademark law does have some protections against people using a famous name as a trademark without consent of the famous person. However, I’m not sure whether the phrase “tebowing” would fall into that category. Certainly an image of an unidentified person kneeling would not.

  2. R.L. says:

    This is really interesting. I’m just a little curious what he is trying to trademark. Is it the phrase “Tebowing”? Or is it the image of someone kneeling on one knee in prayer? Of course, it would seem easier to trademark the former than the latter.

    • Jake says:

      It appears that the trademark is not only on the term “Tebowing” or “to Tebow”, but is also on the pose where one takes a knee and raises his fist to bowed forehead.
      I wonder which athlete will be the next to trademark his/her notorious pose. Might it be Redskins rookie phenom, Robert Griffin the III (RGIII)? While on the ground after throwing his first touchdown pass of his NFL career, Griffin sat up with raised arms in jubilation. “Griffining” was born, and only time will tell if RGIII seeks to trademark the pose.

  3. Kim Smith says:

    Like Amanda mentioned, I am really interested in the “right way” to Tebow. This reminds me of the time that Diamond Dallas Page sued Jay-Z for infringing on his trademarked “Diamond Cutter” gesture. At the time, Larry Johnson also used the symbol to celebrate touchdowns and was affiliated with Jay-Z’s Team Roc clothing line. There was speculation that Johnson would have to stop using the gesture, due to the litigation. Eventually, the parties reached a settlement and Larry Johnson, well he stopped scoring touchdowns.

  4. Erin Reimer says:

    I found your comments near the end of your article particularly interesting regarding whether other religious acts might be protectable under trademark law. After pausing for a moment, I see two basic problems: (1) as everyone is remarking regarding Tebow’s application, such a mark must be used in commerce, and I don’t imagine that the Church, for example, would use such a mark in commerce (if only due to the potential public outcry). (2) While I’m not familiar with much more than the basics of 1st Amendment law, I would have to guess that restricting the use of a particular religious action must amount to an untenable restriction on the 1st Amendment right to freedom of religion.

  5. Danielle Barav says:

    This makes me think of the push to patent yoga postures. (Read more at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/india/4783753/India-moves-to-patent-yoga-poses-in-bid-to-protect-traditional-knowledge.html) A number of parties all over the world, especially in India, have grown very angry at recent moves to patent yoga postures (or variations on yoga postures) that people have been practicing for thousands of years. The Indian government responded to yoga patents by establishing a committee to register postures before they can be patented. I think it will be interesting to see how Christian leaders respond to this.

  6. Amanda Nguyen says:

    I would be so curious to see how he would control how it is used. How would one determine if it was used the right way? I assume he is referring to the religious message but if someone’s form is impeccable but thoughts are devlish, how would anyone–including the devout Mr. Tebow–know? If his only goal is to keep others from profiting, okay. Still seems silly but this was a great read!

  7. Brooke McLeod says:

    Parker, Tim Tebow has trademarked depiction of “tebowing” not just the term. Most of the merchandise created online (i.e. http://www.tebowing.com) uses a logo of a man praying along with the term “tebowing.” Tebow claims that he just wants to keep others from profiting from his act and at the present, has no intent to sell anything with the logo on it himself. Thus, it’s unclear what he really wants to do with the trademark since as Ryan pointed out, the trademark will be abandoned if he doesn’t actually use it.

  8. Ryan Loofbourrow says:

    Would the trademark be on the act of praying, or on calling the act “Tebowing.” I think he has a much better chance of obtaining a trademark on the latter. However, I also would be surprised if Tebow tried to defend this trademark through litigation, or other means. Is he really going to sue his fans that are using the word “Tebowing” without a license? If not, the trademark could be abandoned within a few years.

  9. Parker Hancock says:

    I think the other interesting question is whether he has a right to it at all. He may have been the first to “Tebow,” but someone else called it that first. Does the act, or the coining of the term count as a “first use in commerce”?