NASCAR's wacky trademark trend to continue

The restart zone on NASCAR tracks has already become valuable real estate. Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- If you run a sanctioning body looking to copycat from NASCAR, watch out. Don't try to use the terms "restart zone" or "caution clock" for your series.

The NASCAR police might be watching.

NASCAR has applied for exclusive use of those terms by trademarking them as they relate to motorsports.

For the record, NASCAR won't say why it has opted to file those trademark requests in the past six weeks, an approval process that can take six months but typically takes more than a year. It's standard operating process for a big business, those in the NASCAR offices say.

NASCAR advised not to read too much into this whole trademark thing. But what's the fun in that? Seeing the applications begs for guesses to delve into the minds of NASCAR executives and NASCAR lawyers. It gets us away from thinking about tire wear and manufacturer changes and NASCAR overtime for a moment of quirky bliss.

And let's not forget Eldora Speedway had to change the name of its "Mudsummer Classic" because it infringed on Major League Baseball's trademark. Plus, NASCAR takes an aggressive approach on any merchandise or infringement on its most prominent marks.

I know what you're thinking -- they want to sell a NASCAR "caution clock" that sets off an alarm every 20 minutes. It would be the oh-so-perfect clock for those of us who like power naps or long snooze times. But, no, NASCAR didn't include a merchandise element in the trademark application.

The application for the caution clock only requests the trademark to identify "entertainment services, namely, conducting motorsports racing events; regulating, governing and sanctioning motorsports racing events." The restart zone is intended for "entertainment services in the field of conducting automobile racing events."

No special fonts. No colors. Just the terms themselves.

So what's in a name?

Maybe it stems back to when NASCAR developed the "free pass" a decade ago. At the time, the Fox announcers termed the free pass car as the "lucky dog." Aaron's executive Ken Butler turned around an idea in record time -- he created a mascot -- a dog, of course -- named "Lucky" and sponsored the part of the telecast when they talked about the free pass. NASCAR's term "free pass" is still commonly referred to as "the lucky dog."

Maybe NASCAR wants to sell sponsorship for the "restart zone" or the "caution clock" and felt that to trademark the term would help with the sponsor's ownership of it. Last week at Las Vegas, race sponsor Kobalt logos were in the "restart zone" with that specific wording. If NASCAR owns the term, it could very well want to sell that area on the wall.

Maybe NASCAR was worried that IndyCar would have a caution clock and wanted to call it, well, a caution clock. Then again, NASCAR doesn't seem to worry too much about IndyCar.

NASCAR has lots of trademarks. They come and go with various ad campaigns and marketing initiatives, such as "Names Are Made Here." for the Xfinity Series and "#MYCHASENATION" and "600 Miles of Remembrance" among those submitted in the past couple of years. Which brings us to this: NASCAR must expect the restart zone and the caution clock to possibly have long lives in the sport since it goes through the effort to trademark them.

The wacky world of NASCAR. It's a world of fun trademarks. Joey Logano Racing still owns the trademark to "sliced bread." Darrell Waltrip has the trademark on "boogity, boogity, boogity" and Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s company owns "Jr Nation" as a trademark.

Those at least can be put on a T-shirt.

If you see a T-shirt that says "I love NASCAR's Caution Clock™" at least you were warned to now start saving money for that shirt. If you want to sell a T-shirt with a race car and the words "caution clock" at the race track, get your lawyer on the phone. You have time. But the clock is ticking.