Our annual cautionary reminder about trademark protection

Hmmmm. Rumour has it that there’s some kind of important football game coming up in a week or so, down in Miami (the anglicized spelling is another nod to the fact that I don’t consider this “real football”). 

That means it’s time for the obligatory reminder that the term “Super Bowl ®” has been registered as a trademark by the NFL, so using the term without the NFL’s permission . . . yadda, yadda, yadda, serious financial penalties for infringement.

There’s a term for this type of recurring annual story in the journalism world: “evergreen”.   Rather than waste your time and ours, we’ll simply link to the story we posted on this issue last yearJust substitute “Colts” and “Saints” for “Steelers” and “Cardinals”. The legal principles remain exactly the same.

We should also point out that the NFL is not the only organization which has managed to stake a claim to particular words or phrases that get considerable public attention periodically. For example, just over the horizon but closing in fast we have the “Olympics ®”, the “Oscars ®”, and the “FIFA World Cup ®” (you know, the real football). And there are lots more where these came from. Some trademark owners are more obnoxious than others about enforcing their rights in the mark against every little Tom, Dick or Harry – the NFL’s hard-nosed efforts along those lines are quasi-legendary. Still, the fact is that, by jumping through the trademark registration hoops, these folks have obtained the right to control the use of their marks to a significant degree. They have also obtained the right to sue anyone who infringes on their marks. You should contact us if you have any questions as to whether a term by which you might ordinarily refer to a major event – sporting or otherwise – is a registered trademark subject to these limitations.

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