With the Super Bowl XLVIII less than three months away, many New York and New Jersey businesses are finalizing plans to capitalize on the big event at MetLife Stadium. The Super Bowl is projected to bring in $550 million in revenue and will particularly benefit hotels, restaurants, bars and vendors in the surrounding area.
However, to avoid the wrath of the National Football League (NFL), companies must be sure that their marketing efforts comply with strict rules governing intellectual property. Businesses that try to get away with using the trademark without obtaining a license will likely receive one of estimated 100 cease-and-desist letters the NFL sends to businesses each year.
“We monitor the marketplace very diligently year-round to make sure our policies are enforced the way they should be," Dolores DiBella, associate counsel for the NFL, recently told The Star Ledger. "When we come across something that runs afoul of our intellectual property rights, we reach out and make them aware of how to correct it."
In addition to using the phrase “Super Bowl” to suggest an official affiliation with the game, the NFL, Lombardi Trophy, and Super Bowl logos are also off limits as protected trademarks.
“If a venue is saying 'Come watch the Super Bowl here,' something like that used in a way that describes what's being shown, in this case the game, that's something we would not take issue with," DiBella explained. "But if our logo or the game's logo were used in combination of the business' logos or other trademarks, that gives the impression that it's an NFL-sponsored event."
The NFL also aggressively polices the sale of unlicensed goods bearing its trademarked logos. Last year, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized a record $13.6 million in counterfeit merchandise in a sweep targeting online sellers and street vendors.
Given the significant trademark concerns, we encourage New Jersey and New York businesses to consult with an experienced attorney who can help ensure that any Super Bowl promotions do not result in unexpected liability. For compliance tips for New Jersey municipalities, please see “NJ Municipalities Receive Stern Warning from NFL Over Trademark Infringement” on the Scarinci Hollenbeck Government & Law Blog.
If you have any questions about the NFL’s trademark policies or would like to discuss the legal issues involved, please contact me, Allen Safrin, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work.