It's The Super Bowl Of Trademark Misuse!

from the hurray! dept

Last month we wrote about how the Olympics, beyond just trying to sue anyone who used the word Olympics, was also trying to get laws passed in the UK that would grant extra trademark protections, even allowing the Olympics to control all advertising in the vicinity of the event. In the comments, someone noted the similarity to the Super Bowl... er... "the Big Game this Sunday". Indeed, mmrtnt points us to an article discussing how advertisers are forced to come up with different phrases to avoid getting nastygrammed from the NFL's lawyers. Again, this is a misuse of trademark law. The point of a trademark is not that you get exclusive control over the trademarked phrase, but that you can prevent others from using it a misleading or confusing way. No one could make a credible claim that an advertiser mentioning the Super Bowl is somehow confusing people into believing that they're officially associated with the game. This is a money grab -- which is not what trademark law is intended for.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Jimmy Bear Pearson, Feb 2nd, 2006 @ 1:25pm

    Seriously, Fair Use is A Gray Place

    If I email a friend about watching the Super Bowl(TM)(R)(C)(MR)(ETC), it is fair use - plain and simple. This reply is fair use, too.
    I think protecting one's intellectual property is important - but not at the risk of endangering folks who have no vested interest in the success or failure of the marque.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Vasco DaGameboy, Feb 2nd, 2006 @ 1:41pm

    Geez, What Do You Expect?

    I have been an avowed capitalist for a long time, but even I am getting tired of the overly crass commercialization of the Large Football Event. Now, it's not like the Big Championship was ever something that should not be sullied by adverts, but there's such a thing as complete and utter prostitution, which is what the Uber Match has become: corporate America's whore.

    Don't get me wrong...I'm not some San Francisco lefty with long hair and Daddy's trust fund griping about corporate fascists and eating Tofu while those T-bills Mommy bought for me gain interest. However, there's far too much commercialization of sprots going on, and the Final Showdown is the ultimate example. But the league's actions should hardly be a surprise when everything from the coin toss to the awarding of the Ombardilay Ophytray is sponsored. Even the first down line has Mr. AOL on it, for Pete's sake!

    The real question is: Are those sponsors cunning or chumps? Everybody makes a big deal about who advertises during the Booper Soul, but I'm more intrigued by who DOESN'T. Coke, Nike, American Express, Exxon...the list goes on. Sure, Bud and Pepsi will spend a gazillion dollars for a 30 second comedy bit that will increase their sales 0.000000001%, but I think the really shrewd people are those who pass this one by.

     

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  3.  
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    MixMasta, Feb 2nd, 2006 @ 1:59pm

    The Olympics...

    The Olympics used to be about celebrating humans... It wasn't intended to be come this huge corporate event. I wish they would realize that and go back to how it started.
    Well, maybe not all the way back, I'd rather not watch nude wrestling...

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Mousky, Feb 2nd, 2006 @ 2:02pm

    Stop the insanity!

    I thought that techdirt would have been imune from Super Bowl talk. Argh, as a resident of the City of Windsor (the Canadian city located across the river from Detroit), all I have been hearing and reading is Super Bowl XL. Man, I can't wait till Monday when this madness is over.

    I was over in Detroit this past Sunday and there is some clever billboard advertising around the vicinity of Ford Field, such as "Super Game, Super City". Gee, I wonder what they are talking about ;)

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    A Funny Guy / The Poison Pen, Feb 2nd, 2006 @ 2:11pm

    Re: Geez, What Do You Expect?

    Dear god what is a Poison Pen supposed to write when what he would have written has already been expressed..

    Kudos to you.....

    Absolutly brilliant analysis

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 2nd, 2006 @ 3:12pm

    Re: Seriously, Fair Use is A Gray Place

    "Intellectual Property"? We're talking about a football game, here, right?

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    BlueNation, Feb 2nd, 2006 @ 3:27pm

    12th Man Trademark??

    So if a trademark does not give you exclusive control over the phrase, will someone tell Texas A&M to quit whining? In basketball, you have the 6th man. In football, the 12th man. The idea is that the home crowd helps their team win. There's nothing misleading or confusing about that.

     

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  8.  
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    Dedge, Feb 2nd, 2006 @ 3:36pm

    12th man

    Texas A&M University recently filed for a restraining order against the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks use the term "the 12th man" to refer to their fans, but Texas A&M has trademarked the phrase. The trademark was claimed in 1990 and the University has been using it since the 1920's, but the Seahawk's use of the term goes back to 1984.

    The latest news is that the dispute is on hold until after the Superb... uh, Big Game This Sunday.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Jim F., Feb 3rd, 2006 @ 6:25am

    No Subject Given

    You're only half right...

    The issue is that advertisers using the phrase Super Bowl are attempting to make a profit by using the NFL's mark. It also intimates that the advertiser is sanctioned by the NFL.

    The other issue is that the NFL wants to be able to charge people a hell of a lot of money to be the "official" whatever of the Super Bowl. How can they justify those fees if any advertiser can latch onto the Super Bowl name?

    I think you'd do the same thing.

    -jim

     

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  10.  
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    Michael, Feb 3rd, 2006 @ 7:09am

    Re: No Subject Given

    Irritatingly, I have to recognize some of Jim's points. While the NFL has a nack for taking it to the extreme, there is something to be said for protecting the integrity of your brand, and there are advertisers out there who are just as abusive with their use of the Super Bowl name as the NFL is in protecting it.

    Everyone has a point, but it's not completely one-sided. Perhaps mostly, but not completely.

     

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  11.  
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    Mike (profile), Feb 3rd, 2006 @ 12:05pm

    Re: No Subject Given

    The issue is that advertisers using the phrase Super Bowl are attempting to make a profit by using the NFL's mark.

    This is a bogus issue. The point of trademark has nothing to do with stopping others from profiting. It has only to do with preventing others from profiting in misleading ways. If it's not misleading, then it's not a trademark issue.

    It also intimates that the advertiser is sanctioned by the NFL.

    Uh... why? I don't think most people assume that if you MENTION "super bowl" that you were officially sanctioned.

    The other issue is that the NFL wants to be able to charge people a hell of a lot of money to be the "official" whatever of the Super Bowl. How can they justify those fees if any advertiser can latch onto the Super Bowl name?

    Well, yeah. Of course that's the real issue, but that's not a reason to misuse trademarks. That's not what trademarks are for. If it is, then you've just destroyed competition. Based on your reasoning, if I'm a pizza store owner, and someone opens up a pizza store next door, I can sue him for trademark violation, because it makes it more difficult for me to charge more for my official pizza.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Taylor, Jan 21st, 2009 @ 2:04pm

    you

    I hate the superbowl

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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