So, on the Monday after that fifth game, when he scored 20 points and dished out 8 assists against Minnesota, he did what any athlete whose stardom comes equipped with a perfect catchphrase would do: he filed to register a trademark for Linsanity with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
The plan to trademark Linsanity formed quickly inside Lin’s legal and marketing team.
“We laid out a strategy and moved forward with it in 36 hours,” said Pamela Deese, a partner in the intellectual property group at Arent Fox, in Washington. “You have to be able to pivot quickly, as they say in basketball.”
Lin would not need the trademark to license Linsanity for the T-shirts, hoodies, mugs, energy drinks, duffel bags, fruit juices, nightshirts, scarves, socks, underwear, sandals, visors, bandannas, footwear and action figures that are listed in his application. But the trademark would provide him with legal protection against others who wanted to stamp, sew or print the Linsanity name on their merchandise.
“We wouldn’t want marks like these if there were no business to be made,” Deese said. “But we wouldn’t want them hanging out with someone else, either. It’s defense, but it’s also a good offense.”
Other people and companies also filed to register Linsanity trademarks, some before Lin, some after.
One wants to use Linsanity to sell perfume and after-shave. Another covets Linsanity to market cellphone cases. A third lists dancer apparel, chef’s hats, fire-retardant pajamas for toddlers and toboggan hats as products to exploit Linsanity. A fourth has video games and headbands in mind.
“We’ve filed letters of protest against every other application that tries to play off Jeremy Lin’s fame and personality,” Deese said. “We’ve sent cease-and-desist letters to others who were trying to sell products. There’s a burden on a famous person to protect your celebrity status.”
The patent office recently sent the five surviving, non-Lin trademark aspirants — two of whom filed twice — initial refusals. The office said the applications lacked consent from Lin to register the trademark and convey a false connection to him. They have six months to provide additional information.
Jonathan Moskin, a partner in trademark law at Foley Lardner, said that Lin “effectively has an automatic preference” with the patent office because Linsanity was coined for him.
“Linsanity is a distinctive term with a distinctive meaning and is closely associated with Lin himself, rather than any other individual or business entity,” he said.
The other applicants for Linsanity declined to speak or did not respond to a request for comment.
Lin’s agents, Roger Montgomery and Jim Tanner, who was hired last week, did not return messages.
One of the more celebrated N.B.A.-related trademarks — 3-peat and three-peat — was registered by Pat Riley, the former Los Angeles Lakers coach, after his team won two N.B.A. championships.
The Lakers did not fulfill Riley’s merchandising hopes, but he was nonetheless able to collect royalties in 1993 when the Chicago Bulls beat the Phoenix Suns to win their third title in a row.
Even if Lin gets the Linsanity trademark, its earnings potential will rely in part on his shelf life.
After his college career at Harvard, Lin was not drafted by any N.B.A. teams, so his sudden and unusual rise to stardom grabbed the public’s attention. The first Linsanity era ended with his knee injury in March and season-ending surgery. Whether Linsanity resumes depends on various factors. One, can he return to the level of play that defined Linsanity? Two, if he re-signs with the Knicks as a restricted free agent for a starting salary of about $5 million, will Coach Mike Woodson use him in a way that lets him energize fans? Third, if he signs elsewhere, will he play in a system that lets him fully exploit his skills?
“We haven’t seen enough to know if those few weeks were a flash in the pan or if he will play at that level for several years,” said Darin David, an account director for the Marketing Arm, a sports marketing firm. “As far as hitching a brand to him or building a promotional campaign around him, it’s a risk.”
Linsanity T-shirts are available from Nike, with whom Lin has a deal. And Linsanity T-shirts and caps are made by Adidas, Majestic and New Era, which are N.B.A. licensees. One element of Lin’s marketing plan hinges on his popularity in Asia, where applications for Linsanity trademarks are pending in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
“There is extraordinary interest in Jeremy even since he was injured and recuperated,” Deese said. “We’re approached multiple times a day from interests in Asia for endorsements and licensing. The Asian market holds incredible opportunities.”
David added, “Yao Ming established a growing market, and Lin’s added to it.”