Businesses Reminded That NFL Fiercely Protects Trademarks

With the new season around the corner and training camps underway, I want to remind businesses that the National Football League and the teams in the league fiercely protect their trademarks and especially the “Super Bowl” trademark.  Additionally, each team owns their respective trademarks and aggressively protect them as well.

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Licensing trademarks is big business for the NFL and the league teams. Sponsors like Pepsi, Verizon, Motorola, and Castrol pay more than $100 million annually to be affiliated with the league. However, those who are not officially licensed by the NFL may receive one of the 80 to 100 cease-and-desist letters the league sends each year to businesses using the brand without permission.

Prior to last year’s (2012-2013 season) game, the NFL took legal action against an Indiana man who had the foresight to predict that Jim Harbaugh, coach of the San Francisco 49ers, and John Harbaugh, coach of the Baltimore Ravens, would one day face off in the Super Bowl. Ron Fox filed trademark applications for the terms “Harbowl” or “The Harbaugh Bowl.”

However, the NFL quickly put the brakes on the trademark registration. League attorneys contacted Fox and warned him that they believed that the trademarks could easily be confused with the NFL’s Super Bowl mark.

The argument is tenuous at best; however, we will never know how a court might have ruled on the case. Unsure of his legal rights and unable to afford a costly legal battle with the NFL, Fox ultimately abandoned the application.

Because neither the NFL nor Fox registered the trademark, some may see it as fair game. However, businesses should still expect a letter from the NFL.

How Can I Help?

Strongly enforcing your trademark has its advantages. For more information about how to best protect your rights, contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +