Feb 2023

Will the Eagles Soar over the Chiefs? As the Battle for Super Bowl LVII begins, Don’t Find Yourself Fighting Over the Use of the NFL’s Trademarks

Super Bowl LVII will feature the AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs and NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles hosted for a third time at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.  While at first glance the Chiefs seem to have the most all-star players, sports analysts say the matchup is sure to be even between the two teams.  This is also a fun family feud as Chief’s tight-end Travis Kelce will play against his brother Eagle’s center Jason Kelce. Two kids in the Super Bowl? Daaaang, those are some solid family genes!

And besides the commercials, we can’t WAIT to see what popstar and female power icon Rihanna has in store for halftime. We expect she will steal the entire show as one of the greatest artists of our generation and a nine-time grammy award winner.

All fun aside, my annual Super Bowl trademark advisory does not change.  The NFL is a force to be reckoned with when protecting their brand.  This year is no different. Sponsors continue to pay the NFL millions of dollars to be associated with the America’s biggest football game. Super Bowl sponsorships are the NFL’s biggest revenue generator and businesses are always vying to be a part of it and are willing to spend lots of money.  The NFL is protective about its sponsor relationships and the NFL does not hesitate to send out threatening letters when it becomes aware of trademark infringement.

However, there are ways non-sponsors can use the fun of the Super Bowl in their advertising without getting into big trouble.  The trick is to work with an experienced attorney to learn the “dos” and “don’ts.”  One absolute “don’t” is the use of team names, logos, Super Bowl Sunday, and Super Sunday, and many more. These marks are exclusively reserved for use by the official NFL sponsors.

To be clear, it is always okay to use these marks in an editorial way when you are talking about the Super Bowl.  For example, “I watched the Eagles beat the Chiefs on the road to the Super Bowl LVII.”  The problem is when you are using these marks to promote your business in advertising.  You cannot say, “Come get your Super Bowl LVII special at Joe Smith’s car dealership.”

One thing that is okay to include in a business promotion is to include the names of cities of the teams.  It is okay to say, “Come get your Philadelphia special at Joe Smith’s car dealership.”  Another thing that is permitted is to congratulate your team on winning or making it to the Super Bowl.  For example, it’s okay to put up a billboard that says, “Joe Smith’s car dealership wishes the Kansas City Chiefs good luck in Super Bowl LVII.”

An interesting fact about what you can do is that you are allowed to make fun of the fact that you cannot say Super Bowl or team names.  Many businesses have come up with creative and funny ways to do this in their advertising.  The bottom line is that businesses are limited to their advertising tying in the Super Bowl if they are not official sponsors, but with some creativity and legal help businesses can have fun with what they are left to use without running afoul of trademark infringement.

As an intellectual property attorney in New Jersey and Philadelphia, I will leave you with the most important thing to remember – GO EAGLES!!!

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