Super Bowl Intellectual Property Insanity: No Big Screen Super Bowl Parties, Trademarking 19-0

from the the-big,-big-game dept

Well here are a couple stories to leave you with as we head into Super Bowl weekend. Every year it seems there’s some insanity concerning the NFL somehow trying to abuse intellectual property rights above and beyond what they’re designed for. Remember, the NFL thinks that it can tell reporters how to report on a game, while also forcing them to advertise for NFL sponsors. It also has been known to issue bogus DMCA notices. And, of course, don’t forget that not only has the NFL bullied people into believing that you can’t use the phrase “The Super Bowl” in an advertisement, after many advertisers switched to the euphemism “The Big Game” to appease the NFL, it tried to trademark “The Big Game” as well.

This year, the big news (as submitted by a lot of you), but first by Ryan, is that the New England Patriots have applied for a trademark on “19-0” to represent the undefeated season the team will have if it wins this season. The NY Post, snarky as ever, filed for a trademark on 18-1 in response, supporting the home town NY Giants. This, of course, seems rather ridiculous. What would happen in future seasons if some other team was able to go 19-0? There’s also the question of hubris in declaring yourself 19-0 before that final game. On that note, you can already pre-order a book about the 19-0 season, even though it hasn’t been completed yet.

That’s not all, though. Last year, we had a story that got tremendous attention about the NFL stopping churches from having Super Bowl parties, if they had a TV that was bigger than 55″. There was a lot of fuss about it, and you would think that, perhaps, the NFL would let it slide this year. Not so. Ethan Bauley writes in to let us know that, once again, the NFL has been going around stopping churches from holding Super Bowl… er… The Big Game… er… “Best Commercials Of The Year, Interrupted By Some Game” parties, for having TVs that are too big.

So, remember, as you watch the… event… this weekend, to do so on a TV smaller than 55″, do not refer to it as “The Super Bowl” or “The Big Game,” make sure to notice the photojournalists wearing sponsors’ clothing, and certainly do not put a fair use clip on YouTube. And, perhaps, cheer on the Giants in their effort to make the 19-0 trademark question a hypothetical, rather than practical, question.

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Comments on “Super Bowl Intellectual Property Insanity: No Big Screen Super Bowl Parties, Trademarking 19-0”

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94 Comments
Grady says:

I got a solution. What if the used multiple TV’s of large size(say 50″ or so) and just spread the image across them, like stretching your computer screen between a few monitors. Would that be considered a TV bigger than 55″? Or did I just think of a loophole???

But, regardless, the NFL is getting rather…stupid (to say the least) about this trademark and copyright crap. I would consider a group viewing, regardless of size, the game (or any show) private use, so long as they were/are not charging for it. If it isn’t being charged far, I can only see it (from a logical and reasonable view) being stretched to a “promotional event,” if it came to that. I’d be happy just to know churches were using the game’s drawing power to attract members, but in this money driven world, eyes are set elsewhere.

The commercials are better than the game anyways.

Emilio says:

I hearby tradmark the phrase “Wide Right” to represent the fact that Buffalo will always be second best, reguardless of their actual performance level in any given year. The endless quest, the perpetual striving and not quite achieving that keeps us moving forward as we try and try to surpass past glory, once again giving perfect strangers reason to grin at each other with a wild look in their eyes at 4-way stop sign intersections…

stephen says:

the pats are locks

I won’t be watching the game because the refs have been setting the table for the Pats at least since Ravens game, probably earlier. I turned the Charger game off after Vrabel’s leg whip to Rivers knee wasn’t called so the interception he subsequently threw wouldn’t stand.

You’re probably thinking, What does this have to do with Tech or Dirt or Trademark or whatever? It comes from this: the NFL isn’t just trying to control access to their product–earlier this year, for instance, they tried to limit news outlets from using more than 45 seconds worth of footage of any game, including interviews, so that people would have to go to the NFL Network or NFL.com for “total access”–they are also trying to control the storyline. When the Pats are on, as Bloomberg pointed out recently, ratings are up, and that’s all that matters. Thus we no longer have a game of skill. We have Survivor, and the NFL are the producers editing the storyline into compelling shape for public consumption.

Not that the NFL’s infallible–clearly the refs were trying to set the table for the Pack too to set up the QB matchup the NFL had already been touting, but Favre just wouldn’t tuck in–but it’s tough for a team to beat both a good team and the refs. I give the Giants zero chance.

Don’t believe me? Call me a Patriot hater (I love how the fans of the most racist city in the north have adopted the patois of inner city black basketball fans)? Fine. Just watch the refs. That’ll be the real game.

Brian says:

Re: the pats are locks

Go back and watch the Colts / Patriots games and tell me who the ref’s wanted to win. That was the most blatant display of one sidedness I have ever seen. The league loves the choir boy Manning and wanted that upset more than anything.

The Ravens can’t be blamed for calling a timeout? The Ravens lost that game.

You are a Patriot’s hater it is clear.

Don’t make ignorant comments like Boston is the most racist city in the North. Stop watching ESPN Classic all day and Barry Bonds interviews.

Brian, this is your conscience says:

Re: Re: the pats are locks

Brian, you seem to be spending time on this website looking for an argument. All you really need to do is to find what has gon wrong with your soul, brian. Look to God (who will be unhappy that he can’t watch the Super Bowl {Ya, I said it, 1st Ammendment Bitches} in a church) for the answer to your problems, don’t take it out on those unlucky enough to be around you. Oh, Ya: F*** the Patriots!!!

Bryan says:

Re: the pats are locks

“I won’t be watching the game because the refs have been setting the table for the Pats at least since Ravens game, probably earlier. I turned the Charger game off after Vrabel’s leg whip to Rivers knee wasn’t called so the interception he subsequently threw wouldn’t stand.

You’re probably thinking, What does this have to do with Tech or Dirt or Trademark or whatever? It comes from this: the NFL isn’t just trying to control access to their product–earlier this year, for instance, they tried to limit news outlets from using more than 45 seconds worth of footage of any game, including interviews, so that people would have to go to the NFL Network or NFL.com for “total access”–they are also trying to control the storyline. When the Pats are on, as Bloomberg pointed out recently, ratings are up, and that’s all that matters. Thus we no longer have a game of skill. We have Survivor, and the NFL are the producers editing the storyline into compelling shape for public consumption.

Not that the NFL’s infallible–clearly the refs were trying to set the table for the Pack too to set up the QB matchup the NFL had already been touting, but Favre just wouldn’t tuck in–but it’s tough for a team to beat both a good team and the refs. I give the Giants zero chance.

Don’t believe me? Call me a Patriot hater (I love how the fans of the most racist city in the north have adopted the patois of inner city black basketball fans)? Fine. Just watch the refs. That’ll be the real game.”

I could not agree more. First Superbowl I have ever refused to watch.

The only flaw in your post was the use of the word patriots or pats. I am sure you really meant to use their real name the New England Cheaters.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Trademarking Numbers

It’s not that you can never trademark numbers…you can trademark things like color and things that are generic if they have acquired a secondary meaning. I’m assuming that the numbers used by Intel were not associated with their source enough. You can’t just trademark something ordinary because you use it…it has to mean something to consumers and would add to their confusion if someone else used it.

Bill says:

Is it?

I think what the NFL is worried about, in the case of churches, they will shut of the TV during Half time and commercials as well as hold prayers in their place. Also, why are churches holding these parties? Do you think they may try to promote their message and maybe even solicit or accept donations at the door or during the game. They may even evangelize to get more members for their churches which in turn gets them more donations. Isn’t this really the churches commercializing themselves? They are tax free corporations (entities). Sport bars and such have to pay taxes and are subject to license fees and such. They also usually have some of the advertisers products for sale.

So maybe that is one reason they are banning churches versus Sport bars and the like.

As to the usage of Super Bowl, Big Game and other such nonsense well that is the typical corporate attitude that the US courts have allowed and condone. Contact your elected officials and hound them to change the laws to stop this idiocy. Citizen activism is what will prevent this not whining here,

4-80-sicks says:

Re: Is it?

why are churches holding these parties? Do you think they may try to promote their message and maybe even solicit or accept donations at the door or during the game. They may even evangelize to get more members for their churches which in turn gets them more donations. Isn’t this really the churches commercializing themselves?

Paranoid much? If I had to guess, I’d say that churches are holding Super Bowl parties because they would rather embrace modern trends than be hurt by them [causing low attendance]. “Oh, you say you’re not coming to church this week because the Super Bowl’s on? Well, what if you could watch it here?”

**AA would do well to learn from churches, the oldest “business” model in the book.

JBB says:

Re: Re: Church bowls?

Well I can’t speak for everyone, not even everyone at my own church. But don’t forget that Christians are people too, and there’re a lot of people who enjoy the superbowl, call it what you will. As it happens, the church can seat a few more people than my house does, so where would many of the churchgoers prefer to get together?

Oh, and by the way, the screen we have is only 4.5″ tops. Of course, there’s this bright light behind it and this lens in front of it, but that’s just details.

DF (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Church bowls?

One of the churches in our town presents the, “Soup-er Bowl” to raise money and solicit donations for their food pantry.

For the cost of a can or two of food, you get to watch the game with a bunch of people. There’s catered food donated by local businesses and a potluck from other attendees. No pressure to worship, no pressure or propaganda, just a relaxed gathering of other fans who don’t want to watch the game alone.

Last year the church raised enough money and got enough donations to last through mid-summer.

And the TV screens were all small, but there were a lot of them, as many attendees brought them so you could drift from group to group and socialize.

Rachel says:

Conversely...

While the NFL doesn’t want people referring the game by any of the official names (perhaps they’d be happy if people didn’t acknowledge the game’s existence at all?)…

…on the other side we have the Kentucky Derby. Oh, I’m sorry! I mean, “The Kentucky Derby sponsored by Yum! Brands,” which is what you’re supposed to call it now any time you refer to it. Yes, the race was officially renamed that way. But, hey, at least third parties can actually still call the race by name, even if the name is more than twice as long as it used to be!

why the Hell not? says:

new approach

if ppl weren’t so short sighted they would boycott said game 1 or two years in a row.
I mean sure lots of money would be lost while this is happening, but the following years NFL (I hope im allowed placing those 3 letters next to each other) would be begging and perhaps would end up paying for reporters and other party organizers to talk about its games and big events.
I believe in the past when actors or celebrities were complaining too much about the breach of privacy due to over zelous reporters the reporters would snub them which usually ended up by the celebrities having to issue a public apology and so one.

Because says:

Re: new approach

Now tell me if your job and income depended on you working the SBowl are you going to boycott it. I don’t think so. Are the fan – I don’t think so. This is entertainment and makes BIG money not to just the NFL but to the advertisers, etc.

I think the trademarking of 19-0 is totally stupid and trying to prevent churches and others from showing the game on tv’s of any size is even more idiotic. The stadium can only hold a limited amount of people that’s why we have TV’s and advertisers.

Pete says:

Do you want to watch great football without paying a weeks wages, watch at your local high school or college, heck that goes for most sports, the best baseball games to be seen are right down the street from you, great way to spend some quality time with your kids and the plus is it will not drain your wallet or credit card balance. I have given up on most pro sports, any more so many of the athletes come across as overpaid crybabies and it is getting really tiresome to be hearing about all the drug abuse.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: STUPID BOWL!!!!

Damn right!
Honestly, all these corporate trademark/patent lawyers are going to Hell. I stopped watching the Stupid Bowl years ago. I just don’t care anymore: 10 seconds of play followed by 5 minutes of commercials, talking about stuff, replays, etc… Now that I have satellite TV, I don’t have to tolerate it anymore; I’ve been watching Australian rules football for the past few years — way more exciting.

What the NFL needs is a good old-fashioned fan boycott.

BlazingSaddles0745 says:

Super Bowl...

I don’t really care what they call it, it is nothing more than money in their pockets, like all professional sports are. I have never watched one of the Big Games or whatever it is, and never will. Sports is a bunch of people getting together in a vacant lot or on a farm pasture somewhere and playing a game, it is not and will never be sport to add as much money into big business pockets as is currently being done.

I have just always had better ways to spend my money, and better things to do with my time than sit in front of an idiot screen and watch pro sports. I know I am in the minority, but if more people refused to pay the prices now charged for pro games, things would change for the better.

Just my opinion. Pro sports are a waste of time, money and electricty.

JustMatt says:

Screw 'Em

They should ignore the C&D, DMCA, etc. orders. See what happens when they try to get the local cops to bust down the door of a church, or ask a judge for a warrant. See what happens when local media outlets decide to start running segments about the problem. Said it last year, will say it again. If if wasn’t so frickin’ cold here I would beam the damn thing on to the side of my house and let everyone driving by watch it.

ehrichweiss says:

I'll do one better..

I just won’t watch it in the first place. This pursuit of IP madness has not only turned me off from watching most NFL games but any of their games. I’ll be sure to find out who their advertisers are though so I can send an email letting them know I’ll be supporting them *less* for advertising with an organization so hung up on itself.

Ehren E. Turner (user link) says:

Ignore it

19-0 isn’t remotely defensible as a copyright. Still, putting a (c) after it would be a good way of mocking the Patriots (not the team itself, but the management). You can file a copyright on anything, but that doesn’t mean it’ll stick if you have to take it to court. The law is still rational. “Super Bowl” is protectable under copyright law, but it doesn’t preclude anyone from using it to refer directly to *the* Super Bowl. “The Big Game” is not copyrightable because the connection to the Super Bowl is hypothetical and conditional.

The NFL has no teeth when it comes to forcing people to watch their show on small screens. And absolutely insane. It is, in essence, boycotting TV manufacturers of large screen TVs. The NFL relies on public good will for everything. If we get pissed off, we can still watch the game. Invite them to sue us. If they dare, show up to court but make sure you invite reporters, and then suggest boycotting anything that advertises on the Super Bowl for a period of one month following the next year’s game to remind these imbeciles that we live in a world based on reality.

Hopeless Charm says:

Super Bowl

Eat it NFL !! Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl.

This is AMERICA not RUSSIA or CHINA — We WILL NOT BE OPPRESSED by big corp interests ! Stupid asses, and just because I feel like it: Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl ….

BK1 says:

Not a fan here... Hoping for a better society.

I played football in High School and I had a good time playing the game with my buddies. But that is where my interest in the game ended. I didn’t even know it was this weekend until someone asked me where I was going to watch the game at this year. The only Superbowl related advertising I have even noticed this year are the WalMart ads where the ladies are overly excited about buying chips and soda or something. Football in general and especially Pro/NFL football is so insanely dull and pointless, I am glad to see that the NFL organization is putting on such a spectacle regarding trademark. Hopefully people get irritated and disillusioned enough to not support the pro-sports system at all and invest the billions of dollars each year into something useful, like their local schools or youth recreation leagues. It reminds me so much of Roman history it isn’t funny. Everyone was at the coliseum cheering for the gladiators or participating in wars of conquest, while the integrity and success of the society crumbled around them. Priorities need to be reevaluated my fellow citizens, before it is too late. Instead of watching the “Patriots” go be a real patriot and do something useful this Sunday, and ignore the big guys in spandex tights who get paid millions to run around and jump on each other for a ball shaped like a testicle. The USA will be a better place because of it.

$2.7 million for a commercial says:

so F U. Yeah, priorities need to be reevaluated by the citizens. That is why Spector is bitching at the NFL for destroying stupid tapes instead of worrying about Iraq.

F u, the NFL can do whatever it wants, they can’t force reporters to cover their games the way they want, they can just not give them free passes anymore. Piss them off? Buy your own tickets you bunch of cheap ass moochers. You want to be all professional? Then write about the game after watching it on TV instead of expecting free tickets and access to all the parties.

Yeah, go ahead with your boycott, that will just prove how no one really cares about you or your stupid opinion.

Brian says:

Re: Re:

Spector situation amazes me. The economy is slumping, housing market is crashing, stocks falling, war in iraq, enivronmental issues, education system is failing our children.

Nothing else is going on so lets waste everyones time and money on a situation which should be no ones business but the NFL.

This is sickening and this ass hat should be called our for this.

Um, Yeah (profile) says:

Re: Re: Brian

Actually, Arlen Specter does have a justifiable reason for pushing for this investigation. The National Football League falls under an antitrust exemption, which allows them to operate outside of the various antitrust legislation that Congress has set in place over the last 125 years. Since the possibility exists that the NFL Commissioner condoned cheating to win the Super Bowl by destroying every piece of evidence, this antitrust exemption could, and likely should, be reviewed. Though I am not a lawyer, having knowledge of cheating that affected the outcome of the Super Bowl and destroying the evidence to preserve what amounts to history would jeopardize this exemption.

Anonymous Coward says:

Pro sports vs. Amateur sports

I love sports, yet I despise the big sports leagues. I hate them for several reasons. One is their utterly absurd views of intellectual property…the NFL is doing this crap again, and the MLB (erroneously) thinks they can actually own facts. Cheating, lying and steroids are rife throughout the major sports leagues. Major sports leagues are driven primarily by selfishness, egotism, and greed. Big league atheletes are crybabies that whine and complain that 10 million dollars to chase a ball around isn’t enough, yet a fireman, cop or American soldier that risks his life every day so said crybaby can be safe can barely even make ends meet.

Do what I do…watch amateur sports instead. For one, amateur athletes play not to become richer than Namibia, not for a shoe deal, not for a throwaway supermodel girlfriend, but simply for love of the game. You won’t have to spend an arm and a leg to watch amateur sports. Amateur athletes aren’t some whiny primaddonas that think they’re more important than God. I have paid absolutely no attention to professional sports in years, and I haven’t missed it one bit.

Jiggily says:

Real Reason

I doubt many people actually read down this far, but one possible reason they don’t want churches to show the game on big screens is because more people will go there to watch the game then stay home to watch. This means there will be less cable boxes tuned to the game. This means less rating numbers for the game.
Its all about the money.

Myself, I’ll be online playing games, instead of watch the Lamer Bowl.

Cmeeks says:

Too many lawyers

Once again too many lawyers allowed to be out of their cage and in contact with society. I have just filed for trade mark on “Lawyer”, Common law, “Intellectual property” Copyright infringement, cease and desist, “Gag order”, “class action”, Lawsuit” and “frappuccino”. So I leave the rest of you too now report about the NFL threatening churches with legal action if they show the “Event” on a “Big screen”, remember not to infringe my trademarked properties. Now that I have saved the world from senseless lawsuits I will go have a frothy burnt sweet coffee beverage.

Allison says:

F---k You NFL

What a bunch of greedy bastards. I wonder what this story looks like when read through the eyes of someone in another part of the world. It seems very arrogant and petty. Instead of going after church groups year after year, as you always do, NFL, why not put the energies and talents of your legal goons to work doing something positive for a change.

Have the laborers of China print up a million throwaway cardboard hats, and partner with these church groups who want to get together as a group to watch your stupid football game, buy a $1 cheap hat for the Superbowl, and half the money goes to feed the starving babies of the Sudan. That way, you arrogant bastards can still track the number of Superbowl viewers for your precious Nielsen ratings.

After the game, the beancounters can ask: how many stupid hats did we sell today? It would work, if you would get your head out of your respective asses long enough to consider doing something positive for humanity instead of being dick heads.

Iron Chef says:

Thoughts on definition of "public performance"...

The law that defines “Public Performance” is USC 17.110(5)(B)(i)(II) and dates back to 1975, and specifically qualifies “public performance” as being viewed on a television size of 55 inches or larger.

Again, the law is somewhat archaic- being written in 1975 when the cost of a 56″ television was simply outside of the grasp of the general public.

Now that barriers to entry have come down, I would imagine it would be in the public’s best interest to revisit USC 17.110(5)(B)(i)(II).

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/110.html

Astrid says:

Re: Thoughts on definition of

The law that defines “Public Performance” is USC 17.110(5)(B)(i)(II) and dates back to 1975, and specifically qualifies “public performance” as being viewed on a television size of 55 inches or larger.

Again, the law is somewhat archaic- being written in 1975 when the cost of a 56″ television was simply outside of the grasp of the general public.

Now that barriers to entry have come down, I would imagine it would be in the public’s best interest to revisit USC 17.110(5)(B)(i)(II).

This is actually the most logical argument/explanation that I’ve heard so far. Yes, it is past time for the law to be amended to reflect the fact that 55 inch + TVs are now widely available.

Overcast says:

Actually, it has a lot to do with tech. New technologies.. computers, DVD recorders and very large TV’s are common…

With the ease of copying media and such, everyone’s like some big whiny baby on their ‘rights’. Which – *real* people haven’t really been doing anything different.. I had a lot more music on copied cassette tape than I do MP3.. lol

But the big corporations have a different perception now than they used to with the ease of copying audio and video.

PhilCamp says:

The NFL Wants 1 thing...MONEY

Has the NFL been so blinded by greed that they can’t see when they’re needlessly hurting their fans. These parties are great for building community and appreciation for the game. The NFL should be praising these parties but instead lining the pockets of the billionaire owners rides shotgun, while the fan gets stuffed in the trunk.

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