If you are thinking about tying a business promotion to the Super Bowl this Sunday, read on before you do. The NFL has trademarked the words “Super Bowl,” which limits the use of that phrase by anyone other than the NFL. Generally speaking, you can use “Super Bowl” to make reference to the actual game (“The Super Bowl is this Sunday.”), but not in connection with any commercial activity (“Come to Joe’s for free soup or salad on Super Bowl Sunday.”).
You might be thinking, yeah, but is the NFL really going to know about my little old business in New Hampshire? In a word: yes. The NFL has a history of aggressively enforcing its trademark rights (you may have seen the Samsung ad below with Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd making light of that fact). In the information age it is increasingly easier to monitor such things, and it is not uncommon for the NFL to send “cease & desist” letters to businesses it feels has improperly used its trademarks.
There are potentially good defenses for many of the uses that the NFL complains about, but it can be expensive to hire a lawyer and prove them. The better strategy is to simply be creative with your promotion. Thanks to the NFL’s marketing machine, everybody knows that the Super Bowl is this Sunday. That means all you need to do is advertise without making use of the words Super Bowl in a way that your customers will get the reference. For example, some variation of “Football Party this Sunday” would convey the message without actually using the trademarked phrase. Good luck, and enjoy the game.
Ned Sackman is a shareholder at the law firm of Bernstein Shur, P.A., where he practices in the area of business and intellectual property litigation.
DISCLAIMER: The foregoing contains general information on business issues. It does not contain legal advice, and the reading of the material does not create an attorney-client relationship. The material should not be used as a substitute for legal advice specific to your situation.