On Sunday, February 4, 2018 over 110 million viewers will watch the Philadelphia Eagles face off against 5-time-Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. What viewers won’t see— advertisers using the name “Super Bowl.” This is because “Super Bowl” is a registered trademark owned by the NFL. A trademark is a brand name, and includes any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination used or intended to be used to identify and distinguish the goods and service and / or indicate the source of the goods and services.
So, what exactly does the NFL’s trademark mean? While viewers are permitted to use the term “Super Bowl” in conversations about the game, businesses cannot use the trademark for commercial purposes unless it is an authorized use. Commercial sponsors pay the NFL to be the official car, soft drink, mattress, medicine, etc. of the Super Bowl, and any unauthorized use implies a false sponsorship or affiliation with the NFL.
How do you ensure that your use is authorized? In 2010, Budweiser signed a six-year Super Bowl sponsorship deal worth over $1 billion to become an official sponsor of the big game. For those who think the NFL won’t know if they use the term “Super Bowl” in their promotions—think twice. They will. They definitely will. The NFL is known for actively protecting its trademark and will send cease and desist letters to anybody using the term without its permission. If the use persists after a cease and desist letter has been sent, the NFL will pursue a lawsuit.
Rather than engaging in unauthorized use of the NFL’s trademark, many companies use creative alternatives such as Battle of the Pigskin, The Last Game Until September, The Most Expensive Ticket in Town, The Two Week Wait, Super Duper Sunday, The Football World Series, Commercial Break Bowl, and of course, Stephen Colbert’s very clever – The SuperB owl.
Hutcherson Law helps businesses protect their trademarks. If you have any questions surrounding trademark law or believe that someone is using your trademark without authorization, contact Hutcherson Law today!