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Johnny Manziel vs. autograph brokers: Did trademark cause scandal?

Some have wondered what motive autograph brokers would have to leak the information that Johnny Manziel took money from a broker in exchange for autographs, an allegation that if proven true could cost him his eligibility for the upcoming college football season. Now, a story from CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman implies that some autograph dealers might hold a grudge against Manziel due to his family's decision to trademark his nickname.

SB Nation has heard a similar story from a source with knowledge of the industry.

When Manziel's family decided to file a trademark on "Johnny Football" -- to prevent others from selling memorabilia with the phrase, and give them the right to do so when he becomes professional -- it made selling "Johnny Football" items illegal. Feldman's story quotes from a memorabilia dealer named Rob Rudolph, who sold several Manziel-related items -- not necessarily autographs -- on eBay, and had added the keyword "Johnny Football" to increase searches to his items.

The online auction site considered this to be a trademark breach, and suspended his account, as well as the account of many other memorabilia dealers. He thinks that might have irked some of those around the industry:

"For me, I'm small time. That was an irritating thing because for two weeks, I couldn't sell anything. I am quite sure for people whose livelihood are this business, that was crippling. If there's anybody who has an ax to grind, pick any of those people."

Rudolph added that he thought Manziel was "dumb" for allowing video or photos to be taken of him at an autograph session, and that "it's kinda funny" watching Manziel get into various off-field trouble this season in the wake of his kerfuffle with the memorabilia industry.

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