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Their fans have heard and spoken “Trust the Process” so many times that the Philadelphia 76ers might as well make it their new name. Joel Embiid is the embodiment of the motto, and it belongs on his plaque if the No. 3 overall pick of the 2014 NBA draft makes it into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

He might as well have it appear there because he recently learned putting it on his shoes is now officially a no-no.

‘Trust the process’ is the 76ers’ way of life

Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers celebrates during Game 2 of the NBA Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Washington Wizards. | Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

There was no name for what new 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie began doing upon taking over in 2013, though “tanking” certainly comes to mind. A year after the team had reached the Eastern Conference semifinals, the 2012-13 squad slipped to 34 wins and did not reach the playoffs.

Hinkie started tearing pieces apart with a goal of accumulating draft picks and young, cheap talent. But that wasn’t the ultimate objective. Rather, Hinkie intended to continue churning, exchanging the new assets for incrementally more valuable pieces. There was a start and a finish; in between would be a lengthy process.

With the Sixers skidding to an 18-64 mark, guard Tony Wroten told ESPN in January 2015 the mantra of “Trust the Process” was embraced across the organization.

Embiid, now sometimes known as “The Process,” became a foundation piece of the philosophy as a 20-year-old draft pick out of Kansas who missed his first two seasons with foot injuries. Ben Simmons came along in 2016, but he also missed his entire rookie season. It wasn’t until 2017-18 that the two played a full season together.

Hinkie departed, but the constant churn of players he started helped accumulate the four draft picks that brought Tobias Harris to town in February 2019 and the two first-rounders the 76ers spent on Danny Green in December 2020.

The 76ers just captured their first division title since 2001 and go into Memorial Day with a 3-0 lead over Washington in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

The 76ers heated up, and so did the motto

Wroten lasted four seasons in Philadelphia before the 76ers waived him early in the 2015-16 season, saving the combo guard from living through a 10-72 season. However, that phrase he uttered – “Trust the Process” – stuck. Two seasons later, the Sixers posted their first 50-win season since 2001, and TTP was inescapable. In fact, one savvy observer thought it was more than just inescapable; Marcus Lemonis thought it was marketable.

On April 19, 2016, Lemonis submitted a trademark registration for “Trust the Process.” Lemonis, the chairman/CEO of Camping World and Gander Outdoors, hosts the CNBC show The Profit, in which he scours the country for struggling small businesses that nevertheless show potential. Lemonis buys stakes in the companies and helps engineer the turnaround.

United States Patent and Trademark Office records show Marcus Lemonis LLC has locked down the trademark for “Trust the Process” as it applies to clothing, providing business advice, and information disseminated via a television show.

Embiid is good on the court but has lost in court

Embiid filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to register “Trust The Process” for the sale of shoes on Nov. 21, 2018, thinking he was on firm ground because the basketball star previously trademarked “The Process” in connection with apparel.

However, that has turned out not to be the case. Lemonis raised a flag, and the USPTO ruled on Jan. 31, 2020, that Embiid’s intended use of “Trust the Process” on shoes would intrude on Lemonis’ line of clothing.

Six months later, Embiid filed an appeal with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. The ruling came down on May 26, 2021, that Embiid had no basis for claiming use of the phrase.

In fact, Bloomberg Law notes that Embiid has only owned rights to “The Process” for two years, potentially making the basketball player vulnerable to counterclaims by Lemonis over its use on clothing. On the other hand, Embiid remains free to pursue his pending application to use “Trust the Process” to market other merchandise, including toys and beverages.

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