The Big Game is less than two weeks away. We know who’s going to play, people are getting ready to host and attend parties, and it may be tempting to create promotions or products centered on the “Super Bowl.”
But not so fast.
Lettuce Discuss: Super Bowl Trademark and Copyright Restrictions
If you use the term “Super Bowl” in your advertisements, products, or promotions, you might get a letter from a lawyer representing the National Football League (also known as the NFL, as you know).
You see, the NFL is an aggressive enforcer of its trademarks. They hold trademarks for the terms “Super Bowl” and “Super Sunday.” They have also trademarked several slogans, phrases, uniform designs, logos, and even names associated with teams in the NFL. And they will not hesitate to send you a cease-and-desist letter if they think you might be infringing upon those trademarks.
In fact, an attorney representing the NFL contacted me several years ago while I was working on a trademark for a client who develops video games. The name of the video game included a common word that just happens to also be in a certain NFL team name (can’t tell you which one, sorry).
The video game had absolutely nothing to do with American football or the NFL, so everything turned out okay after I spoke to counsel representing the NFL.
But that won’t necessarily be the case if your blog or website is using trademarks in its promotions or your ecommerce store is selling unlicensed products.
Don’t Try to Sell Licensed Products without Permission
A quick search on sites that sell homemade goods can show you how many people don’t know (or don’t care) that they might be committing trademark or copyright infringement. Multiple sellers on Etsy, for example, are offering a number of unlicensed products for sale:
Based on the following message board topic, it looks like the NFL has a watchful eye on sites that sell homemade goods:
Apparently the answer to the burning question of whether the NFL might hunt down a stay-at-home mom who sells homemade clothing with unlicensed terms and images ironed on it is a resounding “yes.” As the trademark holder, they have every right to do so.
Domain Names Can Infringe On Marks, Too
Also avoid the temptation to buy a domain name containing the term “Super Bowl,” like these deleted domains from the previous 7 days:
Unless you are the NFL and you just happen to be reading my blog (hey there!), do not buy these domain names. The names in the image above are simply an example of domains that someone out there decided to purchase and quite possibly received a removal letter from a lawyer faster than a New York minute.
Be Careful (and Creative) with Your Promotions and Ads
If you flex your creativity, you can come up with ways to describe the Big Game without getting caught in the crosshairs of the NFL. Here are a few ideas:
- Obviously, the Big Game—as you can see here.
- The Superb Owl, as creatively thought of by Stephen Colbert (and popularized on Reddit)
- The I’m-Only-Here-For-The-Commercials Bowl
- The-Game-That’s-Not-The-Puppy-Bowl (Animal Planet’s annual Puppy Bowl runs concurrently with the Big Game)
- The Lets-Eat-Drink-And-Be-Merry Bowl
- The Pigskin Championship
Or you can just craft your promos, ads, and e-commerce products around football in general. That avoids potential trademark problems altogether.
Plus, this option lets you use the products and ads throughout football season (if not year round). Win, win.