Trademarks and “The Big Game”
Sunday’s football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots will bring many references to “The Big Game“, “The Professional Football Championship Game“, “The Be All End All of Football Games“, and even “The Superb Owl“. But why?
As we have reported every January for years now, the term “Super Bowl”® – and a surprising number of other “super” terms (think “Super Sunday”®, “Super Bowl Concert Series”®, “Super Bowl of Golf”® – oops, that last one is registered to the National Football League Alumni, Inc.) – have been registered as trademarks by the NFL. That means that, while those terms can be used in certain limited contexts, as a general rule they may not be used in any commercial promotions. No advertising of your own events, no advertising of client-conducted events, sales, promotions, no contests, no nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
As a result of the NFL’s aggressive steps to protect its trademarks, businesses have had to talk about Sunday’s big event in other ways.
It is the game that must not be named–at least not without permission.
For most people, the game Sunday between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks is the Super Bowl. But for many business owners, it’s simply the “big game” or “game day.”
Radio hosts are tripping over their tongues and airport signs are carefully worded to keep from referring to it as the Super Bowl, a trademarked name the NFL strictly polices. Mom-and-pop shops and large companies hoping to cash in on the game–but also don’t want to run afoul of league lawyers–have found ways to color inside the lines.
The bottom line to remember? Don’t imply that you have any official connection to, endorsement by, or license to use the National Football League’s trademark for “Super Bowl.”