by Kevin Goldberg
Every year about this time a certain professional football game seems to attract national – no, international – attention. Its popularity raises the temptation to set up events, promotions, contests or general advertisements leading up and into the “Big Game.”
As I recently noted in a post for my firm’s Commlawblog, the NFL actively polices its trademarks, including “Super Bowl” and many others. Some may say they’re over the top, seemingly cracking down on anyone who uses the league name or logos, team name or logos or any use of the words “Super” and/or “Bowl” in conjunction with commercial promotions or events; others would go so far as to say the league’s actions rate a “scandalous” tag (and not just with regard to trademark enforcement). Follow the links embedded in my post to learn the NFL’s attempts to stop the use of terms that would only seem to be tangentially-related to the Super Bowl trademark.
The good news: there is still significant leeway for legitimate non-commercial use of these trademarked terms, especially in your news coverage. As I explain, you can use Super Bowl, team names and logos and other trademarks in “bona fide news stories before and after the game.” The line is crossed when you use them in a way that suggests an official connection between you and the league or teams (especially in a way that creates the impression that the league endorses your publication, station or website).
Where the NFL and its trademarks are concerned, it’s clearly not all fun and games.
Kevin M. Goldberg is an attorney at Fletcher, Heald and Hildreth LLC and he is vice chairman of the National Press Foundation.