Now that they “own” the English words “Super Bowl” — terrifying everyone from even the fairest of use with the threat of linebacker-sized litigation — Marty Schwimmer reports that the NFL wants to own the euphemism of choice — THE BIG GAME — too. The opposition period is now. Do you want to oppose the granting of this trademark registration? Do you have some possible standing to do so? Please? I’m sure we can work something out. Someone has to stop this juggernaut! This is the real Big Game! Hat tip to Legal Fixation.

SUPER BOWL! SUPER BOWL! SUPER BOWL!UPDATE: Cal and Stanford push back. (Where are Yale and Harvard? If the Big Game is about to be taken out of the lexicon, how long can it be for The Game?) How’s this for an incredibly fatuous NFL response?:

The NFL insists that Cal and Stanford have nothing to fear if it is granted the trademark by the U.S. Patents and Trademark Office.

“This filing was done in regard to companies that have attempted an end-run around the term ‘Super Bowl,’ ” said Brian McCarthy, the NFL’s director of corporate communications. “So this would not affect the college game that’s played in the fall.

“It would affect somebody who was trying to intimate a relationship with the NFL or the Super Bowl. They’re trying to draft off the goodwill we’ve built up over the years.”

Don’t you get it? They don’t just believe they own the words SUPER BOWL for all purposes. They believe they own the concept. They’re targeting the appliance store that is already too intimidated to run the ad saying, “Come to John’s for a great deal on a wide-screen TV to watch the Super Bowl” — which only an idiot would think “intimates a relationship” between John and the NFL, as opposed to John and human life in North America. Now they don’t even want John to be able to say, “Come to John’s for a great deal on a wide-screen TV to watch the big game!” — which is what, if you haven’t noticed, John has been doing for the last five years.


UPDATE: Bad press along the same lines from the San Francisco Examiner. He makes my Harvard-Yale game point but we’ll never prove he read it here, will we? Meanwhile just down the Coast the NFL admits the breadth of its arrogance in the Los Angeles Times:

“You hear radio ads or TV commercials where a company would promote its product by saying, ‘Come on in before the big game’ ” said Brian McCarthy, the league’s director of corporate communications. “We’re in essence trying to stop these companies from doing an end-around on the Super Bowl.

“To some it may be comical, but to us it dilutes the value of the Super Bowl and our ability to sell those rights to our partners.”

But it is, in fact, comical Brian. Comical and cynical. SUPER BOWL!

UPDATED:  The NFL punts.

By Ron Coleman

I write this blog.

11 thoughts on “SUPER BOWL!!!! (Updated and moved up)”
  1. It is a bit strange that the NFL, which obtains its players from colleges and universities, has never heard of this Big Game. But hey, Cal and Standford are nowhere schools, so I can see how they overlooked it.

  2. LOL, right. I was actually thinking about the fact that all the NFL’s lawyers come from Harvard and Yale and really haven’t heard of Cal and Stanford!

  3. Has the NFL lost its mind? Ok, so lets say they copyright “the Big Game”; what makes them think that advertisers wont use another term to describe the Super Bowl? The Big Battle? The Huge Event? The Sunday Commercial Vehicle?

    Do they think Americans are so stupid that we won’t know what they are referring to? Heck, they could just show a guy throwing a football in the background of the commercial and people are going to get what they are alluding to!

  4. It really does seem like the NFL is out to suppress all reference, no matter how indirect, to their championship game, despite the principle of nominative fair use. Unfortunately, they’re not alone in this sort of over-agressive expansion of purported rights, to which on occasion decisionmakers have deferred. I’m reminded of the UDRP case a few years back over, which was ruled to be an infringement of the complainant’s trademark on “Casino de Monte-Carlo”, which, as you’ll note, fails to share even a single word in common with the domain; apparently, their official monopoly status over gambling in Monaco lets them suppress even indirect references to the concept, no matter how worded.

  5. […] Let Prof. McCarthy and the International Trademark Association have their pet legislators — who revise the Lanham Act and the Copyright Act at the periodic behest of Hollywood and Wall Street, no matter the irrationality of the policies involved — be the ones to stick up for “treaty obligations.” Yes, “there was a way” to jam the famous marks doctrine into the Lanham Act. It’s the same “way” the courts have jammed initial interest confusion and innumerable other plaintiff-friendly “readings” into the every-broadening Lanham Act, even as IP law chokes the life out of creativity and innovation and makes everyone so scared of his shadow he dare not utter the words “Super Bowl Party” without a costly license from the NFL. Now, says Professor McCarthy, not only corporate America, but corporate Asia and, of course, Europe are also to be afforded a presumption of trademark rights in gross, unattached to any domestic usage even in the face of black-letter abandonment. […]

  6. […] Every year it’s the same thing: Several weeks before the Super Bowl®, people and businesses wishing to promote events related to the timing of the biggest sporting event of the season — the Super Bowl®, that is, meaning the National Football League’s championship game — go through all sorts of contortions to avoid saying the trademark-protected words, Super Bowl. Most frequently ad copywriters and broadcast announcers used the phrase, “the big game,” until last year they were intimidated out of even that tepid use of a descriptive word by the league as well. […]

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