PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Don’t expect to see golf apparel shops flooded with “Three-peat” T-shirts, mugs and golf caps should Brooks Koepka win his third straight U.S. Open this weekend at Pebble Beach. He would have to get Pat Riley’s permission first.
Riles & Co., a corporate entity of the former NBA coach and executive, owns the trademark to “Three-peat” and similar phrases for use on shirts, jackets and hats. Riley submitted the initial trademark application in 1988 when the Lakers were trying to achieve a third consecutive NBA title. Riley was the coach of the team then, but credited Byron Scott for coining the phrase as the slogan for the season.
While the Lakers ultimately did not win a third straight championship, the trademark was successfully registered in 1989. When Michael Jordan and the Bulls won a third straight NBA title in 1993, Riles & Co. collected royalties from sports apparel makers who licensed the phrase on merchandising surrounding the event.
There is an on-line store at Threepeat.com that features three-peat related merchandise for those “looking to celebrate your three-peat.”
Dennis Hopkins, an intellectual property attorney based in New York, told The Post that Koepka should avoid marketing “Three-peat” without seeking approval, should he win at Pebble Beach. Koepka has an apparel agreement with Nike.
“It probably would not be advisable for anybody to sell hats, jackets or shirts with ‘Three-peat’ on it because there’s a company that already owns a registered mark that covers hats, jackets and shirts among other things,” said Hopkins, who has no connection to Koepka or the PGA Tour. “Maybe he can say, ‘I won three times’ or ‘I repeated it a third time.’ But if ‘Three-peat’ is used without permission, there’s likely to be litigation.”
It hasn’t been an issue at the U.S. Open before because Willie Anderson was the last golfer to three-peat and that was in 1905. Others who have had the chance for a three-peat but couldn’t were Johnny McDermott in 1913, Bobby Jones in 1931, Ralph Culdahl in 1939, Ben Hogan in 1952 and Curtis Strange in 1990. Four golfers, the most recent being Peter Thomson in 1954-56, have captured three consecutive British Opens and Walter Hagen won the PGA Championship from 1924-1927.
Riley didn’t collect any money off those milestones, but earned profits when the Bulls won a second three-peat in 1996-1998 and when the Yankees won three straight World Series championships from 1998 to 2000. Riles and Co. also profited when the Lakers eventually won three straight from 2000 to 2002.
Current Seahawks coach Pete Carroll tried to skirt around the issue in 2005 by selling “Three-Pete” T-shirts when his USC Trojans were going for a third straight national championship in football. But he had to discontinue sales when warned he was infringing on the Riley-owned trademark.
If Koepka indeed wins a third straight U.S. Open, he’ll have to be more creative than that.