The NFL Pretending Trademark Law Says Something It Doesn't Leads To Hilariously Amateurish Ads For 'The Big Game'

from the the-game-that-shan't-be-named dept

Every year, right about this time, this site is forced to remind everyone that the NFL is completely full of crap when it comes to how it enforces its supposed trademark rights for the Super Bowl. While the NFL does indeed have some rights to the phrase and to controlling how it's used, those rights generally amount to prohibiting companies from falsely implying sponsorship of the game or a relationship with the NFL in commercial speech. What the NFL pretends is the case, on the other hand, is that it can somehow prohibit any company from even mentioning the Super Bowl in any context, up to and including simple factual statements.

All of this leads to the absurdity of every company that has chosen not to sponsor the NFL diving into the euphamism business, gleefully referring to the Super Bowl by any other name. "The Big Game" is the most popular of these, although the NFL has actually gone so far as to look into trademarking that phrase as well. The end result is the Picasso-ing of reality in which companies make references which every member of the public gets but that fall short of calling the NFL's biggest show by its proper name, something you would think the NFL would want everyone everywhere talking about.

With the Super Bowl a week away, we're already seeing this practice ramp back up. In Philadelphia, the home city of one of the competing teams, some small local businesses are getting into the act in hilarious ways.

Bethlehem’s SteelStacks campus announced Thursday it’s hosting a ‘watch party’ for the Big Game, and used clip art in place of NFL logos. One ArtsQuest staff member also tweeted a tongue-in-cheek ‘FLY [REDACTED] FLY!’ with a graphic advertising the event, which references Birds (but not Philadelphia Eagles) and includes a small gold cup instead of the Lombardi Trophy.

Here is the tweet and image in question.


That is some glorious clip art right there. But just let it sink in how dumb this all is. Every viewer of that image is going to know that it's an advertisement for a watch party for the Super Bowl in which the Eagles are playing. Yet, because of the NFL's status as a fullblown bully-monster that's perfectly willing to throw gobs of expensive legal prowess over something as small as a watch party at a bar, out comes the clip art, the references to the "Big Game", and the Eagles suddenly become the "birds." And literally nothing is accomplished. The public will view this image with the exact same understanding as if it contained the phrase "Super Bowl", yet it somehow satisfies the NFL. That's just stupid.

The NFL gets a lot of value out of its corporate sponsorships, no doubt. There have been something like five billion dollars spent on ads throughout the history of the game. Why the league continues to pretend it has rights it doesn't have when companies accurately referring to the game's name are no threat at all is beyond me.


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  • icon
    discordian_eris (profile), 29 Jan 2018 @ 3:59am

    "Why the league continues to pretend it has rights it doesn't have when companies accurately referring to the game's name are no threat at all is beyond me."

    Ask the IOC. They've shown everyone worldwide how to abuse trademarks.

    If someone does actually make the NFL back down, I don't think it would take long for Congress to pass a moronic law granting them IOC-style legal privileges.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2018 @ 10:21am

      Re:

      Ask the IOC. They've shown everyone worldwide how to abuse trademarks.

      That's different. They don't just abuse existing trademark law, they have countries write them new laws: "countries that host the games often create new, special laws to safeguard the Olympic properties above and beyond other existing law. These laws prohibit certain marketing tactics by companies that aren't official sponsors. Any new law typically provides much broader protection than basic trademark law and makes it easier to stop unauthorized activities. One day before Rio de Janeiro was chosen to host the 2016 Olympic Games, Brazil enacted the Olympic Act; it includes language that specifically protects the Olympic properties from unauthorized uses."

      The NFL would love to get a law like that.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Cowherd, 29 Jan 2018 @ 12:16pm

        Re: Re:

        The IOC does that by extorting countries wanting to host the Olympics. It's their way or the highway. The NFL has no such leverage. What are they gonna do, move the Super Bowl to China?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2018 @ 6:55pm

      Re:

      I'm already looking forward to the articles about the IOC's IP insanity that we'll be reading in a just few short weeks, with another quadrennial international sporting event that must not be named coming up. It's regular as clockwork.

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

  • icon
    Chris-Mouse (profile), 29 Jan 2018 @ 4:32am

    Of course it's about the money

    By claiming to have exclusive rights it doesn't have, the NFL gets to license those rights for big money. This trademark fraud is going to continue until someone is willing and able to take them to court and win. That would probably cost millions with no possibility of a payout, so don't hold your breath waiting for it to happen.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2018 @ 2:19pm

      Re: Of course it's about the money

      However, we now gain examples of true wit such as Colbert's "Superb Owl" coverage. No one needs bankrupt themselves to force a sane resolution, when the mocking is so worthy of admiration.

      Let the NFL continue to prove themselves aspirants for the IoC-kie (annual IoC wannabe award - pronounced "yucky"). Crack a beer, have some nachos, and laugh.

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

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 29 Jan 2018 @ 4:44am

    Universal tax on language

    You would think that the NFL would realize that this is a losing battle. Let's say they trademark "The Big Game"...well then people would be calling it "The Huge Game" or "The Ultimate Tamale." The NFL is going to have to trademark the entire human language--not just English, but all the others too. And that still won't be enough.

    I think the only solution would be a universal tax on language. Say something, write something, and you must pay a fee to the NFL. Do you think they would be happy with that?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2018 @ 9:49am

      Re: Universal tax on language

      So is anyone planning to go watch the bald raptors franchise compete in the largest pigskin game of the year? Not For Long!


      Seriously though, I wonder how long it's going to take before someone like FIFA sues the NFL for claiming ownership over "football" for a game that is very obviously NOT football.

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

  • identicon
    Gyffes, 29 Jan 2018 @ 5:27am

    EDITOR! Spellcheck plz

    "a fullblown bully-monster that's perfectly willing to through gobs"

    c'Mooonnnnnn, Timothy!

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

  • identicon
    Sam, 29 Jan 2018 @ 5:29am

    Super Crock

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2018 @ 5:35am

    just call it

    the "Buper Sowl"
    or the "Duper Bowl"
    -nailed it!

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

  • icon
    Flakbait (profile), 29 Jan 2018 @ 5:38am

    Excited

    I can't wait for the November Foxtrot Lima's Immense Match between the Region East of New York Partisans and the Delaware River Accipitridae! Especially since it's being played at the Amalgamated Territories Financial Institution Sporting and Entertainment Venue in the City of Water!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2018 @ 5:47am

    NFL is a deadman walking

    As soon as the lawsuits for brain injuries start pouring in, the NFL is going to find itself out of money and on the wrong end of history. Ignore it now and save yourselves the time.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2018 @ 6:14am

    Trademarks all the way down

    First they'll try to trademark "The Big Game".

    Then they'll try to trademark "Sunday's Game".

    Then they'll try to trademark "The Game this weekend".

    Then they'll try to trademark "On Sunday".

    Then they'll try to patent any activity that takes place on a Sunday, and take to court any advertisement that mentions any and all activities that take place on a Sunday.

    Which will lead to this headline:

    "NFL forces religious institutions across the nation to change all services to Tuesdays...At least until the NFL debuts their Tuesday Night Football schedule."

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

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 29 Jan 2018 @ 7:07am

      Re: Trademarks all the way down

      They go after the "MONSTER TRUCK RALLY ONLY ON SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY!"

      It somehow becomes the two sides competing for the right to use Sunday via a trial-by-combat.

      The gladiatorial champions:
      A team of linebackers vs one of the monster trucks.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2018 @ 7:52am

      Re: Trademarks all the way down

      "Ultimate Sportsball Contest"

      "That Thing with the Commercials"

      "The Concert Bookended by Burly Men"

      "Ballmaggedon"

      "The Great Concussion-off"

      "Synchronized Flushing"

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2018 @ 6:24am

    Those poor NFL executives need their hard earned cash, why just look at how poor they are - they can not afford to pay the cheerleaders minimum wage.

    Think of the C_Suite slobs for a change.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2018 @ 8:03am

    I don't give a crap about Football anymore. Players want to kneel, so be it. I don't have to watch it. I've not watched a single game this year. I have zero plans to watch the Super Bowl this year. F it all!!!!!!!!!

    I think I'll be doing a little Netflix streaming that day.

    I've never been a HUGE sports person, but I've just watched less and less every year, and now watch none of it. You want to take a knee, Move to North Korea!!!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2018 @ 8:11am

    Just call it The Game That Shall Not Be Named

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

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 29 Jan 2018 @ 8:25am

    My Suggestion for a Stupid Hole ad

    Rather than wasting your time on SUNDAY, FEB 4, 2018 @ 6:30PM ET, 5;30PM CT, 4;30PM MT, or 3:39PM PT watching over paid, under talented, over fed, antagonistic neanderthals commit violence against each other while wearing tight pants and ineffective protective gear, DON'T watch the Stupid Hole, go to the movies. Your local cinema is presenting a double feature during the appropriate time frames of the most obtuse, inane, and intelligence abusing fare possible. Still it would be a better use of your time that watching the Stupid Hole. This message brought to you by your internationally acclaimed theater chain with a theater in your location and with the support and aid of all independent theaters nationwide.*

    *Dogs, cats, orangutans, cell phones, cameras, food of any kind, drink of any kind are not permitted (You may check your clothing at the door, but management is not responsible for any lost or stolen articles). You may also not disparage the films shown, our rules, or our selection of the films shown in any way, in/on any media public or private, upon penalty of an IP Butt Hurt inquisition so fierce it would make Global Nuclear War look tame, directed at you, your family, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances, at least until you fold and turn over 137% of all your assets prior to your attorneys fees. And don't even think of remembering, with the express purpose of relishing, any part of any IP you might witness while approaching, entering, in, or exiting, or departing (until you are out of sight line) from our locations. Enjoy!

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

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 29 Jan 2018 @ 9:16am

    Sometimes I'm amazed that the Spice Girls and Salt-N-Pepa never sued each other over trademark violations.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2018 @ 10:07am

    Superb owl

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

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 29 Jan 2018 @ 10:16am

    Nothing is accomplished?

    You say nothing is accomplished by using clip art? I think it's the opposite: everyone knows it's an advertisement for the Super Bowl, but NONE of the NFL logos or trademarks are used.
    Why can't the NFL figure out that any mention of the Super Bowl or the teams or even the logos is more advertising? Yes, I know they have licenses to protect, but still.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2018 @ 10:19am

    How to piss off two companies at the same time? Call it the "Monster Bowl".

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

  • icon
    Oblate (profile), 29 Jan 2018 @ 10:38am

    Nice bird picture, but...

    The Eagles logo is usually shown with the eagle facing to the left. The clip art version also has the bird going to the left. They have missed an opportunity here- by having the bird facing to the right, they could have subtly 'flipped the bird' to the NFL.

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

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 29 Jan 2018 @ 11:38am

    Par for the course.

    In this era the daily headlines are what horrible antisocial thing Trump did or said or Tweeted today, and global stereotypes of crude, impolite Americans are made manifest in our President, the United States is an embarrassment to the international community and other nations are looking to divest themselves with association with the states. America is all about the big foul aristocrats and their big foul corporations.

    It seems entirely appropriate in this clime that advertisers of Superbowl® accessories (who also are implicitly advertising the Superbowl® itself) have to talk about the Superbowl® without actually saying Superbowl® or a number of locked-down synonyms. Soon they might even lose the big game because go NFL®!

    Corporations and big institutions have a nasty habit of becoming antisocial and short-sighted in their huge size. Being more strict with IP may create a small increase in profits, but also deflates its cultural presence and creates a distates for the product by association with an unpleasant corporate entity.

    The NFL® already has some disagreeable issues what with mixed responses to the National Anthem protest controversy, the political benching of Colin Kaepernick and for belittling players who want better protection from concussions now that concussion data from players is coming out.

    Already I cannot enjoy the Olympics because of what a bag of jerks the Olympic committee is, and the economic ruin and desolation the Olympics leaves in its wake. Maybe it's time for Americans to discover association football. Or really, anything that isn't American Football. Maybe we need a better way to express our tribalism than mashing some corporate-sponsored champions together in a gladitorial arena.

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

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 29 Jan 2018 @ 12:45pm

      Re: Par for the course.

      ...and global stereotypes...

      It's not that bad. We do understand that most of you didn't vote for him.

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

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 29 Jan 2018 @ 2:18pm

        We didn't vote for him.

        Most of the US didn't vote for George W. Bush either, but he turned the US into a torture state who thought the Geneva Conventions were opt-in and obsolete.

        So I think blaming us for allowing for unpopular jerks to get into power is valid. At this point it's a symptom of government failure.

        Our representatives are forced to obey their corporate masters and not their own constituents. Maybe when we're scorned enough by the world, our representatives will actually allow for some reform so that we stop electing tyrants and start respecting human rights.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2018 @ 12:27pm

    The only way to beat a bully is to, literally, BEAT the bully. You stand up to him and beat him the fuck up if he tries anything. This pussy footing around the topic like this by everyone and their momma is just giving the NFL more ammunition in its fight. The only way to stop this BS is to call them on it and use the name "Super Bowl" anywhere and everywhere. Basically the same thing that happens when someone issues a takedown of a work on Youtube, or swats a torrent search, 5 more crop up in its place!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2018 @ 1:17pm

    I stopped watching the NFL games before it became fashionable. Seriously the TM bullying turned me off years ago.

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

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 29 Jan 2018 @ 4:44pm

      Re:

      Yep. Me and my brothers are the same way. I literally (really) can't remember the last SB we watched. I didn't watch even a minute of a single game this whole year.

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


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