When Jadeveon Clowney signed with agent Bus Cook instead of Jay Z, he was probably thinking more about football contracts than trademark infringement.
Clowney, through Cook, reportedly threatened to sue a sandwich shop in Clowney’s hometown for using the South Carolina defensive end’s name on its sign.
According to Andrew Kiel of WRHI radio in Rock Hill, S.C., Charlie Ruffalo, the owner of Sub Station II, recently changed the sign outside his restaurant to read: “Hurry in for our Jadeveon Clowney sub, it goes really fast.”
This was after Clowney racked up a pair of speeding tickets in December, and Ruffalo got a call from Cook about it.
“He threatened to file an injunction to get me to take it down,” Ruffalo said. “I explained to him, ‘If you want to spend the time, effort and money of your client to take it down, I’ll do it for free if you are a nice guy.’”
Cook defended his actions, saying: “I’ve been doing this business for twenty-something years. I’ve never known people to arbitrarily and openly take somebody’s name and use it for their benefit without getting permission. And that’s what this is.”
Cook is right. Clowney has become a commodity. Failure to defend that commodity when someone tries to usurp it without fair compensation undermines the investments others surely will be making in the Clowney brand.
Ruffalo has been known to capitalize on local celebrities for attention in the past. When Mel Gibson was filming the movie The Patriot nearby in 1999, he put up a sign that read: “Please don’t bother Mel Gibson while he eats here.”
Ruffalo said the sign would be changed Monday, but his attempts to get more attention for his restaurant (which we just assisted in) will likely continue.