Use Caution: Super Ad Ideas Can March You into Trouble

When it comes to the NFL’s biggest game of the year, it’s an opportunity for many businesses, especially grocery stores, to promote big sales for the game-day party. However, using the trademark-protected words ‘Super Bowl’ could land you in hot water.

Come March, with Tucson being such a big basketball town, using the phrase ‘March Madness’ can also get you in trouble.

To understand why you can’t use the well-known terms ‘Super Bowl’ and ‘March Madness’, when they are names used for two of the biggest sporting events of the year, you must first understand what is a trademark.

A trademark is a word, name, symbol or device which is used to indicate the source of the goods and to distinguish them from the goods of others. A servicemark is the same as a trademark except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product. Trademark rights may be used to prevent others from using a confusingly similar mark, but not to prevent others from making the same goods or from selling the same goods or services under a clearly different mark. Trademarks may be registered with the Patent and Trademark Office.

For the NFL, trademarking the Super Bowl is all about the money, and only those advertisers willing to pay millions to use the phrase and logo can use it. For others, the NFL is strict and will send cease and desist orders if you even try to say ‘Super Bowl’.

For the same reasons, the NCAA has trademarked ‘March Madness’. It’s college basketball’s biggest tournament of the year, with big advertising bucks capitalizing on fan excitement.

Advertisers beware when planning your Super Bowl or March Madness marketing campaigns this year. Clever wording is needed to avoid marching your way into super trouble.

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