We've seen an awful lot of stories lately concerning sports teams or leagues being overly aggressive in trying to "protect" intellectual property rights -- often concerning content they have no right to. The latest is the case of the University of Alabama suing an alumnus and one of its biggest fans for his commemorative paintings of big moments in University of Alabama football games, claiming trademark infringement. Even some people connected to the university admit that it seems like the type of thing that only a group of lawyers would think is a good idea. The paintings are quite popular and clearly show off a school spirit. The problem (though, it's not clearly spelled out in the article) is probably that the artist in question is selling these paintings and also putting it on merchandise. Sports teams and leagues often like to think they have full control over these things, but it certainly raises some questions about the limits of trademark law as to whether or not they really do. It's difficult to see how the university can claim "damage" from these paintings, which clearly have only helped build up school loyalty and spirit. In an age where viral marketing and "fan" support are increasingly important, it seems like bringing in lawyers with trademark claims is only going to cause more problems than it solves.
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