Years before he became the unofficial emissary to Kim Jong Un and North Korea, former NBA player Dennis Rodman made a different kind of history in an unusual trademark infringement lawsuit. In his action against a t-shirt manufacturer, Mr. Rodman claimed that a t-shirt design infringed his ink. In Dennis Rodman v. Fanatix Apparel, Inc. , Mr. Rodman asserted that his tattoos are “extremely recognizable and identifiable” as being his own, and are so associated by the public with Mr. Rodman that they have attained “secondary and distinctive trademark meaning to the general public, particularly to sports fans.” When the defendants produced a t- shirt with replicas of his tattoos positioned in the same places as found on his own body, Mr. Rodman alleged, they infringed his trademark rights. Mr. Rodman pleaded that, the “infringing merchandise of the defendants being of inferior quality, the sale thereof will be damaging to the reputation which plaintiff has developed.”
Despite whatever you may think of Mr. Rodman’s diplomatic skills, you can’t quibble with his intellectual property acumen – he succeeded in obtaining an injunction against Fanatix Apparel’s infringement of his tattoos.