Tuesday

MEMO TO THE NFL: LIKE IT OR NOT THE TERM SUPER BOWL IS SUPER POPULAR

This week is Super Bowl week here in Indianapolis. Fans, the media, and hordes of folks hoping to make a quick buck have invaded the city we  affectionately call  Naptown. But experiencing the Super Bowl as a live event  is only a small part of the Super Bowl. All around the United States merchants will be pounding the air waves and the Internet with special Super Bowl deals on everything from TVs to shag carpet.

So what, you say?  What's the big deal?

Well actually selling stuff using the term Super Bowl is a big deal. My colleague Ron Coleman, who writes the influential trademark blog  LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION, has taken a special interest in the NFL's efforts to control all use of the term SUPER BOWL. And indeed there have been several well publicized fiasco's involving the NFL and its "bullying" tactics involving the term Super Bowl.

One would assume that because of such over the top efforts  all use of the  term SUPER BOWL was tightly controlled  and traceable to  the NFL or its  licensees. That assumption would be false.

 A Google search for "super bowl 2012 tv deals" unearths hundreds of different chances to buy a new television. More generally, a Google search for "super bowl 2012 deals" returns thousands of opportunities to purchase stuff from thousands of merchants.

In the cloistered world of trademark law much ink is being spilled over what it means to be a trademark bully. Indeed, I am helping to spill some of that ink. Is the NFL a trademark bully when it tries to control use of the term SUPER BOWL? Many would say yes. But, based on my  brief and unscientific research, it appears that thousands of merchants are guilty of taunting the NFL by the way they are  using  the term SUPER BOWL without permission.

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