Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Dale Earnhardt Jr. does not own the trademark in his own name.

According to the following story by ESPN's Darren Rovell, NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. does not own the trademark in the name everyone calls him - "Dale, Jr."


What is shocking to me is not the consent form that Dale, Jr. signed - but that the rights in the "Dale, Jr." trademark went into the estate of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. This means that Dale Earnhardt, Sr., somehow owned the trademark of "Dale, Jr." Was RDE Administrative Trust some kind of sole proprietorship that Dale Earnhardt, Sr. ran? (In most states, a sole propietorship dies with the death of the owner, and all assets are turned into a part of the estate of the deceased.)

This is a situation where a trademark would be worth millions of dollars, and should be owned by a corporation. This way, death would not cause the kind of transfer of a trademark that has been seen in this situation. The corporation would continue to exist and the mark would rest in there.

There are too many strange agreements in this situation for me to be comfortable, also.

If this were someone who had never been around trademarks and a business situation, I would not be surprised. (A 19-year-old and his mother visited my office last week about a copyright infringement case - their lack of knowledge did not surprise me.) This family, though, should know better. The Earnhardt family knows or should know the value of the family name, having been around NASCAR for so long. They also know or should have known that two drivers have different ownerships of their own names. I am shocked and surprised at the lazy way the value of the names (which is what trademark law provides) were protected. It seems as if the mark was not protected well at all.

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