The NFL Is Quick To Throw Penalty Flags At Trademark Infringers
Next weekend is the biggest weekend in football – the New England Patriots will face off against the Philadelphia Eagles for the championship title. Did you notice anything about that sentence? Perhaps a certain phrase was missing? That was on purpose. The NFL is notoriously aggressive about policing their trademarks, and that is the reason you won’t see the name of Sunday’s event at any of your local bars.
To be honest, it makes sense that the NFL is so aggressive when it comes to its trademarks. Similar to the owners of “March Madness” (read our post about this topic here:, if they did not keep up with infringers, it would be entirely too easy for everyone to use the mark. And if that happened, the expensive licenses companies receive to use the mark would be less valuable, and this would financially hurt the NFL.
Another driving factor is consumer protection. If these logos and marks were seen everywhere, it would dilute the value of the NFL brand. For example, say a bar in your area were to advertise a “Super Bowl” viewing party, customers may think that this is affiliated with the NFL in some way. Then, when the bar runs out of alcohol or the TVs don’t work, the image is tarnished. The same goes for products bearing the logo or name. The NFL needs to police the use of its marks to ensure the same quality overall – a common issue trademark owners face. The game is arguably one of the biggest sporting events of the year, and the League needs to maintain that reputation.
In the past the NFL has sent out prompt cease and desist letters to those using the mark without permission, including a church in Indiana who advertised a large viewing party the year the Colts made it to the big game. This is just one example of the kind of issues the league may have with establishments showing the game to its customers. Other letter triggering acts include charging an entrance fee to watch the game, using NFL logos on anything, and showing the game on a television screen that is bigger than 55 inches.
It’s unlikely that you’ll think about any of this IP law while you’re watching the game on Sunday. Who would, while enjoying the football snacks, being with friends, and watching the ads. But remember this – last year, a 30 second ad that aired during the game cost $5 million. That’s how valuable this game, and the NFL, can be.