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? 


Continue Reading MARCH MADNESS: An Unusual Case of Reverse Confusion

One of the questions we commonly get from broadcasters and others around this time of year is whether and/or how they can use the term SUPER BOWL.  Some refer to it as a trademark while others call it a copyright.  Who is right…and how can it be used?  The term SUPER BOWL is a registered trademark owned by the National Football League. We previously discussed this issue in 2009, 2010 and 2011

Actually, the NFL owns at least eight trademark registrations containing the words SUPER BOWL, as well trademark registrations for the terms PRO BOWL and even SUPER SUNDAY.  Aside from these trademark registrations, the NFL also owns the copyright to the telecast of the game itself.  You may have heard that in past years, the NFL tried to stop Super Bowl parties shown on large TV screens.  This was an enforcement of the NFL’s copyright in the game.  Now, the NFL apparently no longer tries to stop Super Bowl parties unless the proprietor charges admission to see the game.  Again, this is a copyright issue.  But what do these rights mean for a broadcaster who wants to run a Super Bowl promotion or an advertiser who wants to run a campaign involving the Big Game?


Continue Reading Is Super Bowl Protected by Trademark or Copyright Law? Try Both.

ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has approved the use of .xxx as a domain (like .com) for the adult entertainment industry. In September, broadcasters and others with registered marks will have an opportunity to reserve their marks defensively in the .xxx domain.   

While adult-oriented website operators may be interested in reserving spots in the .xxx top level domain (TLD), broadcasters may be just as eager to prevent their call signs and other marks from being used in that TLD where they may be associated with adult content. The ICM Registry, which will operate the .xxx domain, will allow those who own registered trademarks to reserve .xxx domain names to prevent others from using their marks in that domain.


Continue Reading Protect Your Call Signs and Other Marks in the .xxx Domain

As you may have heard, Facebook is going to allow users to register names in their Facebook URL, replacing the former random ID numbers.  This policy, announced in a Facebook blog post earlier this week will become effective on a first come, first served basis beginning Saturday, June 13 at 12:01 am.  This new policy creates the danger that Facebook users may try to register as their user name words or phrases that could infringe on a company name, trademarked slogan, or even a broadcast station’s call signs.  To prevent others from using your company’s name, call sign or other trademark, Facebook has created a form allowing rights holders to register their marks ahead of time.  To protect your intellectual property in the easiest manner possible (without the need for costly infringement lawsuits of other actions), companies should take advantage of the procedures outlined by Facebook itself, and register with the company.

A couple of caveats:  

  1. User names have to be at least five alphanumeric characters.  This means that four letter call signs cannot be used as user names unless used with a suffix or frequency.  Since periods are the only punctuation allowed, acceptable user names might be WXYZ.FM, or FM98.1, for example. 
  2. In order to prevent someone from using your trademark in advance, it appears that it must be a registered mark.  However, a separate form appears to allow intellectual property rights holders to reclaim a user name, even if it is not a registered trademark.  Thus, if your company name, mark or call sign is unregistered, you can either register it as your own Facebook user name or wait until someone else does that and complain after the fact.  You do not need to be a Facebook user to submit the intellectual property rights forms described above.


Continue Reading Protect Your Company Name or Call Sign on Facebook