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Usain Bolt trademarks his lightning bolt move

Publications | Katrijn Huon

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Usain Bolt, also known as the world’s fastest man, submitted a trade mark application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office ( USPTO), requesting the registration of his iconic victory pose the lightning bolt. (see also: De Standaard, The Guardian en Washington Post)

According to the application, the Olympian seeks to protect a mark consisting out “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”. Usain Bolt claims protection for the use of the bolting trademark for a number of goods such as sunglasses, jewelry, bags, clothing, sporting goods, restaurants and sport bars.

A trademark is a sign capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises. A sign may consist out of letters, words, symbols, shapes, sounds, etc. or a combination thereof.

Although the possibilities are almost endless, physical poses do not qualify as a registerable sign as such. Nonetheless, the image or the stylized contour of the pose can be registered as a trademark when filed as a symbol. A renowned example of a trademarked pose is the image of Michael Jordan dunking, also called the “Jumpman”.

You can consult another gesture mark here.

In the sporting industry we notice an increase of athletes registering individual trademarks as a strategy to build and commercialize their personal brand. These trademarks often consist out of nicknames, signatures or catchphrases.

Important to note is that in 2009 Usain Bolt already successfully obtained trademark protection for 2 variations of his iconic “Bolting” move in the US. Unfortunately, due to the lack of proof of use of these preceding trademarks they were cancelled.

That’s why we predict that the current trade mark application will most likely mature to registration. But we will keep you posted!

If you have any questions on filing a (maybe not so conventional) trademark, please do not hesitate to contact our IP-team: Christine De Keersmaeker, Levi Van Dijck, Thaïssa Nuyens, Katrijn Huon, Yuki Choy.