Back in 1996, Steve Austin of WWE fame orchestrated a master troll of born-again Christian and WWWE rival, Jake Roberts, when he donned a shirt that said, “Austin 3:16.” Any Christian knows that the shirt is a take on a bible verse, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
The verse was also made famous at sporting events thanks to a man who wore a rainbow-colored wig and held up signs that read “John 3:16.” He was so ubiquitous at sporting events, even inspiring copycats, that the verse has become almost synonymous with sporting events.
The man’s name was Rollen Fredrick Stewart. His days of holding up the John 3:16 sign ended in 1992 when he was arrested after a police standoff at a hotel where Stewart had attempted to kidnap two men. His hotel room was covered with the John 3:16 sign. He believed the rapture was coming in 6 days.
Stewart is still in jail after being convicted of numerous charges.
One can argue that without Stewart, there would be no Austin 3:16 shirt as it was, intentionally or not, a reference to the Stewart-created, and later inspired, John 3:16 references at sporting events. Steve “Stone Cold” Austin turned that on its head and, in essence, changed the verse to “For Steve Austin so loved the world that he gave…well…a t-shirt so that whoever believes in him shall be a WWE and Steve Austin Fan…or something.”
I bring up Stewart only because of the actions taken up recently by the WWE and the legitimization of these actions by the United States government, aka, the coercive enterprise called the United States of America.
After Austin donned the Austin 3:16 shirts, the WWE capitalized on the troll marketing and began to sell the t-shirts. The t-shirts began selling and showing up in WWE arenas, and still do, to this day, more than 20 years later.
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As a matter of fact, according to WWE.com, that t-shirt has become “the most popular garment of all time.”
As if it weren’t enough for the WWE to make a profit off of a clever troll move by Steve “Stone Cold” Austin (or whoever actually came up with the idea), the WWE has now taken it upon themselves to trademark the term 3:16, not Austin 3:16, but 3:16.
Now, I have no issue whatsoever with the troll marketing, or the profits the WWE have made capitalizing on that troll marketing, but now they’re IP trolling, and the US government has bought into the troll and granted the WWE trademark rights over the phrase 3:16, at least as it relates to t-shirt merchandising.
The phrase, 3:16, long before Steve Austin ever donned a leotard or feigned pain after a fake strike to his groin, would be, and still is, identified by Christians as being John 3:16. If you just put 3:16 on a t shirt and walk around Christians, it is far more likely that they will think of the John 3:16 verse, not Steve Austin.
Yet despite long Christian history, despite the ubiquitous John 3:16 signs of Rollen Fredrick Stewart, the United States government, aka the coercive enterprise known as the United States of America, has granted trademark rights to the WWE for the phrase 3:16.
This latest ‘protection’ of IP shows the completely capricious nature of IP, and how IP is not an attempt to recognize the creation of the ‘innovator,’ but is merely a reflection of the power of an agent (in this case, the WWE) that has deep pockets and powerful lawyers to claim “IP” for almost anything.
IP is, in other words, merely another mechanism for those who want to protect their product from competition, and they wish to invoke the power of the ‘state,’ the coercive enterprise, to assure their product is protected from competition.
Let me put it more plainly, the WWE has chosen to point government guns, preemptively, at anyone who even thinks of using the phrase “3:16,” a phrase that has been shared by Christians for centuries, a phrase that was shared quite dramatically by Rollen Fredrick Stewart more than 20 years before Stone Cold’s shirt made its debut in the WWE.
I am not for IP in any form, but even within the staty von stateface parameters of this mythological beast called IP, this can be thought of as nothing more than trademark trolling by the WWE. I only hope that some brave souls are bold enough to challenge this ridiculous trademark and, at the very least, force this coercive enterprise, the United States of America, to prove how much it is willing to sell something it doesn’t own, something no one owns, IP, to the most powerful.