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The Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball™

The Arkansas Razorbacks men's basketball team opened conference play at Georgia ranked No. 23. As fans of Hogs hoops will know, we haven't fared well on the road over the last decade. 

Last night, the Hogs won their first conference road opener in over half a decade. They did it with a strong performance in the first half by Bobby Portis, and an excellent shooting night (especially in the second half) from Alandise Harris, including a heat-check three-pointer that put the Hogs up for good. They eliminated a Georgia lead of six or seven points about halfway through the second half with a ferocious run. The announcers made reference to the fastest 40 minutes in basketball.

While searching for coverage about the game, I googled fastest 40 minutes in basketball. One of the first results to pop up was a Facebook page from Coach Mike Anderson's time at Missouri. The last post on the page was from March 8, 2011, at the end of Mizzou's regular season.

The usage of this phrase presents an interesting issue of trademark ownership. Usually, trademarks are owned by universities, not by coaches. So, had Mizzou trademarked THE FASTEST 40 MINUTES IN BASKETBALL when it hired Mike Anderson as coach, it would almost certainly not be using the mark anymore. As shown on the Facebook page, the last usage associated with Mizzou was almost 3 years ago. Under federal law, the trademark would be considered abandoned after three years of nonuse. 15 U.S.C. § 1127 ("Nonuse for 3 consecutive years shall be prima facie evidence of abandonment."); see also Ark. Code Ann. § 4-71-201 (abandonment occurs after 2 years). So, if the University of Missouri had registered the mark THE FASTEST 40 MINUTES IN BASKETBALL and was being horsey about giving it up to a conference opponent, after three years University of Arkansas could simply take it away — just like the Hogs did 17 times against Georgia last night.

But, you might ask, what's the "takeaway" for ordinary businesses? If you want to adopt a name for your product or service that was once used in a similar fashion by someone else, you'll need to wait at least 2–3 years before adopting your new mark.