Published November 9, 2023

Last week, Taylor Swift’s boyfriend and Kansas City Chiefs tight end, Travis Kelce, appears to have taken a play out of the musician’s playbook and launched a brand protection plan focused on something more than just product lines: himself. The fellow 1989er filed four new trademarks under TMK Enterprises LLC, two of which included his name (TRAVIS KELCE) and social media handle (KILLATRAV). Both cover merchandise and entertainment services. The two others – FLIGHT 87 (based on his jersey number) and ALRIGHT NAH (a catchphrase) – cover merchandise, including lapel pins, posters, hats, sweatshirts, and bobblehead dolls.

There’s a history of athletes claiming rights in their names and catchphrases. And, although Swift and Kelce have only been publicly linked for a little over three months, her frequent attendance at the football player’s games has skyrocketed his national reputation well beyond the field and, in tandem, his social media followership and marketability. In September, ESPN reported that his jersey sales shot up 400%.[1] He’s also been featured in advertisements for DirectTV,[2] Pfizer, and Bud Light.[3]

What is notable about Kelce’s timing for these personality-focused filings is that he didn’t take steps to protect his name back when he was first drafted in 2013. He also didn’t make filings after other high-profile sports branding issues made headlines, such as the rebranding of racially controversial team and mascot names or the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) lifting its rules prohibiting college athletes from commercially capitalizing on their name, image, and likeness in 2021. Rather, the two-time Super Bowl winner only filled the blank space of protecting his name after connecting with Taylor Swift, an artist known for her brand and marketing power moves.

Swift has been filing trademark applications since 2007, starting when she was only 18 years old. Swift and her company, TAS Rights Management, collectively own over 600 live trademark filings worldwide. In addition to her 200+ US trademarks, she has sought trademark protection in Canada, Mexico, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Turkey, Argentina, Colombia, South Africa, India, China, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, New Zealand, and Australia. Her registrations are wide-ranging, encompassing her name, album names, song titles and lyrics, tour names, and, of course, her cats’ names. The musician’s comprehensive trademark strategy reflects the control that Swift exercises over all of her business interests. For example, in 2019, she decided to re-record her albums in an effort to fully own her music after her record label sold her first six albums to a private equity firm.

Kelce’s prior trademark forays were spotty and largely product-focused. He has a trademark registration for a design mark that is tied to his clothing line, Tru Kolors, which relaunched in January 2020.[4] The football player also has a 2022 filing with his brother for their podcast, New Heights with Jason & Travis Kelce. Earlier this year, the athlete filed for KELCE JAM for music festivals and TRAVIS KELCE’S KITCHEN for pre-made meals that are sold at Walmart (the product line appears to be expanding based on a new KELCE’S KRUNCH filing for cereal).[5]

Whatever the impetus for protecting his own name, Kelce’s move puts him in good company beyond Swift. Madonna was one of the first pop stars to protect her name by filing for a Class 41 trademark in 1985. Since then, personal brand protection has exploded, with Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Rihanna, Beyonce, Deion Sanders, the Beckhams, and many more staking Registry rights in their own names.

Worthy of note, Kelce’s recent US filings are well within the Paris Convention priority filing time frame. If, as rumored, Kelce grabs his passport and Swift’s hand for the international leg of The Eras Tour, and bolsters his international recognition, it will be interesting to see whether and if he files beyond the US in spring 2024.





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Purvi Patel Albers

Written by Purvi Patel Albers

Emily Ketterer

Written by Emily Ketterer

Haynes and Boone LLP

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