As we wrote about last year around this time, MARCH MADNESS is a term that is protected by trademark law. It is owned by the March Madness Athletic Association (MMAA), a joint venture between the NCAA and the Illinois High School Athletic Association (IHSA). The IHSA was actually first to begin using this mark to describe its high school basketball tournament in the 1940s.
Brent Musburger brought MARCH MADNESS to public attention in using that term to describe the NCAA college basketball tournament, during which many hearts are broken each year….if you are lucky enough to have a team that made it this far. (Northwestern came this close to its first NCAA appearance.)
Normally, this would be a case of so-called "reverse confusion," in which the junior user of a mark (here, the NCAA) is so much bigger than the senior user of the mark (the IHSA) that the public thinks the mark belongs to the junior user. In the typical reverse confusion case, the senior user can stop the junior user from using the mark. But that did not happen here. Why?