Friday, February 10, 2012

The SUPER BOWL Trademark & What Not To Say

"When we become aware of a potential violation, we will be very aggressive, and sending a cease and desist letter would be the first step" NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

What is Mr. McCarthy referring to? The use of the trademark SUPER BOWL by unauthorized third parties. Only a handful of authorized parties were permitted to use the SUPER BOWL trademark in association with the promotion of whatever they were selling.

The NFL has 22 official marketing partners that pay north of $100 million annually to be affiliated with the league. Sponsors include Pepsi, Verizon, Motorola and Castrol. Although there is no specific sponsorship of the Super Bowl, NFL sponsors have the right to use the game's name and logo in their own marketing efforts.

The average fan will spend $63 on merchandise, clothing and snacks, with total consumer spending for this year's Super Bowl expected to reach a record $11 billion.  Personally I spent $1484 on wings. I am now obese.

So being an authorized licensee of the NFL is not cheap. For that reason, the NFL has to make sure that its existing partners that pay a pretty penny to use the mark don't get upset when unauthorized parties use the mark for free. As well, trademark owners generally need to protect their marks to ensure that only authorized parties use them. That's a basic trademark principle. 

The NFL will send out cease and desist letters requiring a business to stop using the mark. That's where they start and generally parties stop using the mark.

In order to take advantage of the SUPER BOWL, businesses like bars use wording like "The Big Event" or "The Big Game" to get around the issue. Electronics retailer H.H. Gregg Inc. promoted a Super Sale. Pizza Hut promoted its Big Deal for the Big Game offering any pizza for $10. I ordered 3000 pizzas. I remain obese.

So businesses have gone with closely associated wording without using the SUPER BOWL mark or something confusing with it.

Businesses get that there is tremendous value in associating themselves with the most watched TV event of the year. These businesses need to make sure the don't go too far though.

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