Monday, January 5, 2004

Fun with Trademark Infringement

There's a "Big Game" coming. But we can't tell you about.

It's going to be the sporting event of the year (at least until the next one) but we can't call it by name.

We can tell you when and where it is...but we can't tell you the name of teams that are going to be there.

Of course, we mean the “The Professional Football Championship Game in Houston.” "The Big Game," coming a little later this year than normal – not until February 1, 2004 – was brought to our attention by a curious phenomena not noticed in previous seasons. DJ and event promoters wouldn't call “The Big Game in Houston” by name. Adverts proclaimed "Pro Championship" Parties and "Big Game Sunday" events.

We wondered what was happening. Why didn't they just call a chair a chair – or a bowl a bowl, for that matter?


The – how do we euphemize this? – "professional athletic associations" that own the rights to the "professional Championship" event trademark have released explicit guidelines delineating what you may and may not say in reference to their "Big Sunday" event. Specifically, you may not use their trademark in any way that implies any sort of professional or suggestive relationship – hence, non right-owners having to style their parties and events by using euphemisms instead of trademarked names.

The "American sport organization" even compiled this handy list of do's and don't's for the less imaginative among us. Keep them in mind when you're at your "Professional Football Championship Game in Houston” parties. Imagine the fun we can all have avoiding calling the teams, event, or associations by name.

You cannot say or print:
“Super Bowl”
“Super Sunday”
The Super Bowl logo
“NFL”, “AFC”, or “NFC”
“National Football League”
“American Football Conference”
“National Football Conference”
Any team name (e.g., “Buccaneers”) or nickname (“Bucs”)*

You can say or print:
“The Big Game in Houston”
“The Professional Football Championship Game in Houston”
The date of the game (February 1, 2004)
The names of the cities of the competing teams in the Super Bowl (e.g., Indianapolis vs. Tampa Bay), but not the team names
You can make fun of the fact that you cannot say the phrase “Super Bowl” (e.g., by beeping it out)

Now, in all fairness, these rules do not cover reporting. And, as an editorial in a pseudo-journalistic publication, we'd likely be safe saying "super" and "bowl" together. But why take the risk? This is more fun.

And, to beg the inevitable question, is this trademark control taken too far? Probably not. "The professional associations" have every right to control their valuable trademark. Afterall, the intended victim of these limitations are not the bar owners or the radio's the streetside tee-shirt bootleggers filtching off "The Big Games" brand value. And if the powers that be are being brand Nazis, who can really blame them? If I owned a trademark like that I'd squeeze it for every cent too.

And for our part, we have a plan. We're going to trademark "Big Game." See 'em talk about their “The Professional Football Championship Game" without infringing on us, then, eh? A few years of this and the whole even will be reduced to "Event with Ball." fb

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