Business LawEntertainment LawTrademarksThe Strategic Play: Pat Riley’s Trademark of “Three-Peat”

March 30, 2024

The concept of winning three consecutive championships is a coveted achievement in any professional sport. The Kansas City Chiefs just became the first back-to-back Super Bowl champion in twenty years, and will attempt this season to complete the “three-peat.” However, the foresight to trademark the term “three-peat” more than thirty years ago was a strategic move by none other than Pat Riley, that highlighted the intersection of sports achievement and intellectual property law.

Pat Riley, a renowned figure in basketball both as a player, coach, and now executive, led the championship Los Angeles Lakers during their heyday in the 1980s. It was during this period that he had the foresight to trademark the term “three-peat.” The Lakers were eyeing their third consecutive NBA championship, and Riley recognized the commercial potential of the phrase. Though the Lakers did not secure a third consecutive title at that time, Riley’s decision to trademark the term proved to be a masterstroke in the years to come.

The significance of Riley’s trademark on “three-peat” extends beyond the basketball court and sports arena. It is a prime example of how individuals and entities can protect and monetize unique ideas or phrases within the legal framework of trademarks. Trademark law allows individuals or businesses to secure exclusive rights to use a word, phrase, symbol, or design that identifies and distinguishes their goods or services. Riley’s move to trademark “three-peat” ensured that any merchandise or promotions featuring the term would require his authorization, thereby generating royalties. This strategic decision also underscores the importance of intellectual property rights in the sports industry and beyond. It serves as a reminder of the power of branding and the need to proactively safeguard one’s unique ideas and contributions to culture and commerce.

Pat Riley, is now known as the Godfather of the Miami HEAT, but his ownership of the “three-peat” trademark is a lesson in the significance of intellectual property rights and business savvy. It demonstrates the value of foresight in recognizing and protecting one’s innovations, offering valuable insights for individuals and businesses across various industries. As of 2024, the “three-peat” trademark is active for use in connection with trading cards, bumper stickers, decals, posters, among other goods.
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