CHICAGO, October 20, 2012 — If Tim Tebow doesn’t approve of the way you pray, you may have to pay him. Tebow popularized the act of dropping to one knee to honor and give thanks to God by praying publically during football games. The act, strikingly similar to one performed by Catholics at pew entrances for the past several centuries, became known as “Tebowing.”
As of October 9, 2012, Tim Tebow now owns the trademark for “Tebowing.” Tebow has stated that he did not acquire the trademark for financial gain, and being the good Christian that he is, that is probably true. Tebow’s goal is “to just control how it’s used, make sure it’s used in the right way.”
Apparently the trademark is not solely on the term to Tebow, but on the pose as well. You don’t have to call it “Tebowing” to be subject to Tim’s approval. Drop to one knee with your fist to your forehead, and if Tebow does not approve of the context, you will pay.
No one believes Tim Tebow is going to spend his days checking the media to be sure the world is respecting his trademark property. But in the sticky muck that is the “separation of church and state,” the Tebow trademark may set a slippery precedent.
If Tebow can trademark the pose of praying with his fist on his forehead, can the Catholic church trademark the “praying hands” pose? If Muslims trademark the traditional poses that coincide with their daily prayer obligations, the yoga instructor at your local gym may be in trouble. Is the term “Buddha belly” indicative of religious affiliation or beer consumption? Or in our case, just a chubby baby?
This may sound far-fetched, but when an everyday act or saying takes on marketability, someone will market it. Apple owns the right to the rectangle, at least when used as a phone shape. (Wouldn’t an oval fit better in your palm anyway?) Tell an incompetent employee “You’re fired!” and Donald Trump may come knocking.
Tebow does not want his football prayer becoming a commercial commodity. Aaron Rodgers doesn’t seem to mind his touchdown dance being used to market insurance. The difference? Religion. And a catchy name for the move.
Our government guarantees religious freedom. It also regulates commerce. Throw in a few episodes of Family Guy, and we can bring freedom of speech into the discussion. The truth is that the separation of church and state is not a clear-cut line.
As my mother used to say, “There is no black and white, only a million shades of gray.” Ah, if only she had trademarked that one!
So certain aspects of religion can be regulated by the government, if only for its own protection. But the government cannot tell us how to worship.
Tim Tebow can, however. Luckily, Tebow is more interested in using our government-granted intellectual property rights to protect his religious act from money-grubbers than to control how we individually pray.
Let’s hope that precedent continues to hold.
While Julia Goralka owns no trademarks, this article is her copyrighted property. Someday maybe she’ll understand the difference. To contact her, see above.
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