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  • Writer's pictureRandall Fisher

Considering Intellectual Property Rights in Your Estate Planning, Part II: Tebowing

If you read regularly, you may have noticed my use of a fresh and innovative blogging technique. After letting you hang in suspense for the past two weeks for the thrilling conclusion of Part One of this post, I now get to the part where I finally talk about . . . intellectual property rights and your estate plan!

I call this new strategy “delayed relevance” – like “delayed gratification” only more frustrating than actually gratifying – and I hope it works better in a conversation with you than it does in one with my wife. Look, I’m doing it right now!


In that post we discussed the trademark infringement quarrel between the United States Olympic Committee and the knitting social media hub Ravelry. USOC apparently has rights both to the Olympic word and any identifying derivations of it. Which is why Ravelry received a cease-and-desist order for marketing its much-hyped knitting competition as the Ravelympics.

Laying aside judgement of the aggression (and rudeness) with which USOC defended its trademark, we must acknowledge the former as their legal prerogative, even if it is wrapped in immature condescension. They want to protect their image and their name is a significant part of that. Consider yourself in a similar situation.

Let’s say you’re Denver Broncos fan Jared Kleinstein. You create the verb Tebowing, an homage to the former team quarterback, to describe the act of publicly taking a distinctive kneeling stance to pray “even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different.”

The Denver Broncos’ dollars at work.

Your tax dollars at work. (Doctored image)

The word goes viral online as 20,000 people around the world begin submitting to your website photographs of themselves Tebowing in settings of varying import and absurdity. You realize that other businesses are using the term to sell – with surprising success – their own products.

Here begins the hypothetical: You decide to trademark the term, after having negotiated a deal with Tim Tebow himself for the rights, in order to make a buck. But unlike USOC, which is effectively a business entity, you are a mortal individual so you begin to consider your legacy, which is bound to the legacy of your trademark.

Despite the levity of the example, this is a serious question for many a celebrity, artist, and any individual who could be outlived by their trademark, patent, or copyright. And since these protections (with the exception of patents which expire after 20 years) are valid for at least as long as the average lifespan, you are pretty likely to be survived by your intellectual property right. So you are left with a tough question, but one you must answer in your estate plan.

Who gets the right to Tebow when you are gone?

Once you’ve figured that out we can get into the strategies that would be most beneficial to your particular situation. These can vary greatly and be highly individualized so I won’t discuss them here but keep in mind that with the Bush Tax Cuts set to expire in four months, now is the time to plan and take advantage of the $5 million gift tax before it’s gone.

As always, good luck and good hunting.

If you missed it,  be sure to check out Part I of “Why You Should Consider Intellectual Property Rights in Your Estate Planning.”


If you’re interested in discussing how we can incorporate your intellectual property right into your estate plan, find out how to get in touch with us at: You can also contact us at, on Twitter @thefisherlawoffice, or at If you come here just because we sometimes incorporate kittens into the blog, you’d best consult the Arts and Cats Movement.

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