Johnny Manziel may not be able to draw a paycheck while he's playing NCAA football, but that doesn't necessarily mean he won't profit from his ever-increasing reputation.
In a lawsuit filed in United States District Court on February 15, Manziel's business venture, JMAN2 Enterprises, argues that an individual is improperly using the Heisman Trophy winner's trademarked nickname "Johnny Football."
Manziel's lawsuit has created a legal loop hole for the NCAA player to indirectly profit off of his image.
Eric Vaughn runs the website Keep Calm and Johnny Football — or, as it's recently been redirected to — Keep Calm and Juanny Futbol. Vaughn has sold shirts bearing the nickname Johnny Football, which Manziel trademarked in 2012.
As the Southeast Texas Record first reported, Vaughn "is accused of trademark infringement under the Lanham Act, Texas unfair competition, including the right of publicity, palming off and misappropriation."
A trademark case wouldn't normally make headlines. But since Manziel is still an NCAA athlete and thus barred from profiting off of his image or likeness, it's created what many are calling a legal loophole for the rising star.
Manziel is suing to stop the unlawful sale of his image, as well as for monetary relief in the form of attorney's fees and exemplary damages. According to ESPN, the NCAA has ruled that "a student-athlete can keep financial earnings as result of legal action."
While it's not been suggested that Vaughn and Manziel are in cahoots, the suit could open the door for college athletic boosters to intentionally infringe upon a star player's trademarked image in order to legally give a student-athlete a big payout. Considering how corrupt college recruiting has become, it's not hard to imagine this new rule being abused.