When people think of trade marks, they typically think of a logo or a business name, however trademarks are so much more.
Michael Buffer has probably made more money than anyone else stepping inside a boxing ring, despite having never thrown a single punch. Before the fists start flying, the American ring announcer lets out the one phrase that earns him his living. It’s a phrase that only he can do; not by virtue of his unique voice or the way he says it, but by law.
It is his trade mark. He owns it.
And it goes like this: “Let’s Get Ready to Ruuummmmmmbbbbllllle!”
With those five words, Buffer has established an empire that’s made him millions of dollars. $400 million USD to be exact, with wholesale licensing accounting for about $150 million just over the last three years. However, the money doesn’t only come from boxing. Buffer originally trade marked his “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” under a class that applies to announcing sports and entertainment events. He has since branched out to obtain trademarks for other things, like videogames, toys, and clothing under the same phrase.
It takes plenty of work to stay in charge of the multimillion-dollar words, as one of the biggest problems for trade marks is trade mark dilution – if you allow too many people use the phrase, then you’ve lost control. If you don’t protect it, you’re in trouble.
Many accredit the commercial success of Buffer’s trade mark to his willingness to use the law to defend it. Buffer has been involved in over 100 legal actions over the phrase, and has been successful in every single one. Awards from these cases have ranged from four figures to a “healthy” six-figures according to his legal team.
An idea is “worth as much as you put into it,” Buffer has said. “To me, all business is the same, it’s just the product that’s different – you can have a diamond in your hand, but if you don’t market and protect it correctly, it just becomes another piece of coal.”