Sep 2020

The NFL is Good at Many Things, Especially Trademark Enforcement

Are you ready for some football in 2020?  We are living in some strange times due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but football is definitely back.  Most teams are playing in stadiums with few fans or no fans at all, but America’s love for American football remains the same.  It is always a good time to remind business owners what they can and cannot do in their business promotions regarding NFL trademarks.

There are very few certainties in life, but one thing you can count on is the that the NFL will enforce its trademarks.  Covid is not going to stop that.

Each year sponsors pay the NFL millions of dollars to be associated with its powerful brand.  The NFL makes money from everything from ticket sales to merchandise sales, but its main source of income is from advertising sponsorships.  The sponsorships are sold for big bucks, but there is always a line of businesses eager to get these coveted spots.  This is why the NFL is vigilant about protecting their marks and they do not hesitate in sending cease and desist letters.

Here’s the big question: how can businesses (who are not “official” sponsors of the NFL) talk about their favorite teams and games like the Super Bowl?  The only answer is extremely cautiously and in partnership with an experienced advertising and intellectual property attorney.  Most terms associated with the NFL are trademarked.  For example, team names, logos, Super Bowl Sunday, and Super Sunday, and many more. These marks cannot be used in association with your advertising if you are not an official NFL sponsor.  You can refer to these marks in a newsworthy context.  For example, “I watched the Eagles beat the Cowboys yesterday.”  However, the your business cannot advertise an “Eagles” special or a “Super Bowl” special.

The names of cities can be referred to in advertising.  You can say, “Come get your Philadelphia football special.”  It is also okay to congratulate your team on winning or making it to the Super Bowl.  It is also okay to make fun of the fact that you cannot say Super Bowl.  The options are limited, but you can have come creative advertising campaigns despite these limitations.

If you need any guidance on this issue please contact Carrie Ward at (856) 354-7700 or