Pat Riley files for '3-peat' trademark
Pat Riley has extra incentive for his Miami Heat to win a third straight title.
The Heat president owns four trademarks to the varying versions of the phrase "Three-Peat."
And although it's unknown whether Riley intends to license the phrase to companies making championship gear, the former coach seems to be thinking about it.
Records with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office reveal that, last Thursday, an attorney representing Riley's company, Riles & Co., filed a trademark to use the phrase "3-Peat" on "jewelry, namely rings and sports memorabilia."
Riley wouldn't have to file for a trademark if he had planned on putting "3-Peat" on the Heat's championship rings, should they win the title, but would want to protect his investment if there were discussions about selling rings at retail.
Lisbeth Bosshart Merrill, the attorney listed on Riley's filings, and John Aldrich, an attorney listed as co-owner of the trademark, did not return calls seeking comment. Heat spokesman Tim Donovan did not immediately return messages seeking Riley.
An official with a major player in the sports merchandise space told ESPN.com under condition of anonymity that a "Three Peat" licensing program has yet to appear on the radar.
Riley is finally in position to cash in on his own team nearly 25 years after first registering the phrase.
Riley first filed for "Three-Peat" at the start of the 1988-89 season, months after the Los Angeles Lakers won their second title. The Lakers fell to the Detroit Pistons the following year, but Riley cashed in in 1993, when the Bulls three-peated and did it again in 1998. The trademark was also used when the New York Yankees did it from 1998 to 2000, and the Lakers won three in a row from 2000 to '02.
Riley has continued to add to his "Three-Peat" empire over the years by registering the phrase in various versions, including "3Peat" and "ThreePeat." Meanwhile, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office has protected the phrase by making initial rulings against filings by other individuals that refer to three-peat and the Heat such as "Heat3Peat" and "Big3Peat."
Legend has it that it was Lakers guard Byron Scott who said the word "Twee-Peat," and Riley just modified it. But, as chronicled in the book "Showtime," it was another Lakers guard -- Wes Matthews -- who claims he came up with "Three-Peat."
"I just thought of it as a catchy slogan," Matthews told ESPN.com. "I give Pat a ton of credit for having the vision to do what he did. I bet he made out real well when the Bulls did it and can imagine, if they use it if the Heat win, he'll be making money hand over fist."
Riley told ESPN.com in 2005 that he donates much of what he has made from the trademark to charity. While he says he doesn't pursue business, his lawyers are aggressive to maintain the trademark's integrity, including fighting off entrepreneurs that made "Three-Pete" shirts as former USC football coach Pete Carroll was going for this third straight title.
Matthews said he marvels at the potential that the "Three-Peat" trademark could have if the Heat win it all.
"Once it happens, I hope he'll send a check to me," he said.