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Monday, February 12, 2007
Should an honorable bonehead get to change his name to "Peyton Manning"?

Via Above-the-Law, the press reports that Chicago Bears fan Scott Wiese has filed papers to change his name to "Peyton Manning" after losing an unspecified Super Bowl bet:
Wiese, a die-hard fan of the Chicago Bears, signed a pledge in front of a crowd at a Decatur bar last Friday night that if the Bears lost Sunday's Super Bowl, he'd change his name to that of the man who led the Indianapolis Colts to victory.

Final Score: Colts 29, Bears 17.

So on Tuesday, Wiese went to the Macon County Courts Facility and started the process of changing his name.

"I made the bet, and now I've got to keep it," said the 26-year-old, who lives in Forsyth, just north of Decatur.
From a legal perspective, I'm not sure he's bound to keep it (Contracts experts please chime in), but there's also the issue raised in some commentary of whether he's allowed to change it. Perhaps a certain Colts QB will have something to say about whether he's got a protectable property interest (right of publicity) in his good name. Illinois law (see 735 ILCS 5/21-101) provides:
If any person who is a resident of this State and has resided in this State for 6 months desires to change his or her name and to assume another name by which to be afterwards called and known, the person may file a petition in the circuit court of the county wherein he or she resides praying for that relief. If it appears to the court that the conditions hereinafter mentioned have been complied with and that there is no reason why the prayer should not be granted, the court, by an order to be entered of record, may direct and provide that the name of that person be changed in accordance with the prayer in the petition. . . .[A]ny person convicted of a felony in this State or any other state who has not been pardoned may not file a petition for a name change until 10 years have passed since completion and discharge from his or her sentence. A person who has been convicted of identity theft, aggravated identity theft, felony or misdemeanor criminal sexual abuse when the victim of the offense at the time of its commission is under 18 years of age, felony or misdemeanor sexual exploitation of a child, felony or misdemeanor indecent solicitation of a child, or felony or misdemeanor indecent solicitation of an adult, or any other offense for which a person is required to register under the Sex Offender Registration Act in this State or any other state who has not been pardoned shall not be permitted to file a petition for a name change in the courts of Illinois. . . .
No word on whether Mr. Manning nee Wiese has a felony record (although if he's the same Scott Wiese that participated in this this U-Wisconsin science fair, that seems unlikely)...


Peyton's common law rights are not being violated, since the guy hasn't so far used or stated an intent to use the name commercially. Cf. Kareem Abdul Jabbar v. Karim Abdul Jabbar. Trademark law is not implicated for the same reason.

However, the statute cited says that specified conditions must be met AND a judge must find "no good reason" why it should not be changed. One good reason might be the overwhelming temptation to commercially exploit the name in the future.

Blogger SmittyBanton -- 2/12/2007 7:30 PM  

Sorry to have to use the least sports-like example here, but I can't think of property rights in personal names without thinking of Elizabeth Taylor.

Granted, Liz trademarked her name because she has entire perfume and cosmetic lines under "Elizabeth Taylor," but she tried to enjoin NBC from making a TV movie based on her life because she had "branded" herself, making an argument of trademark dilution.

Elizabeth Taylor and other domains:

Elizabeth Taylor and NBC:

So I wonder if the real Peyton Manning had similarly created some kind of business enterprise under his name (not a far stretch); whether the dude's use of the name would be considered trademark dilution. Moreover, if the new Peyton Manning started a business under his new assumed name, would that violate a legally cognizable property interest if it hasn't yet been protected through trademark?

There is commercial value in the name which the real one should have a right to (being the actually famous and talented one) and the new fake one could exploit in the future (being the bonehead). Kind of a mess, and kind of stupid.

Blogger Belle Lettre -- 2/12/2007 7:50 PM  

Contracts weighing in: in no way is he bound based solely on a bet. No consideration for his pledge, and no reliance by his buddies that could serve as a ground for promissory estoppel.

Suppose, however, his buddies bought him beer all night long in return for the promise. Then we have a contract with consideration. So what? He should breach it and pay restitution in the amount of beers he consumed. That's a much smaller hassle.

As for the name issue, how is this different than a guy who was born "Peyton Manning" in Nome, Alaska and works on the pipeline? If our bettin' man changes his name to "Peyton Manning" and otherwise leads a normal non-exploitive life, no problem, right?

What if he changed his name to "Peyton A. Manning"? Same concern?

What if he changed his name to "Richard Karcher"? :)

Blogger ChapelHeel -- 2/14/2007 2:49 PM  

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