(We’re excited to welcome Ryan Patrick as a contributing editor to The Daily Blur in 2013. He’s not only handsome but a mighty fine writer. You’re going to like him. A lot.)
This week, local business owners across the country are asking their media reps to run ads that say…
“It’s a Super Bowl of Savings!”
“Don’t miss our Super Sunday Sale!”
“Come watch the 49ers battle the Ravens!”
“It’s the Super Bowl of Furniture Sales!”
“If you’re looking for the best Super Bowl Party in town…”
…and so on.
Yet, what those business owners (and, sadly, some media reps) don’t know is that these phrases and others like them violate copyright law.
Yup. The National Football League has dug their copyright cleats into an assortment of often-used (and abused) words, titles and phrases. And to say the NFL is just a little bit protective of their intellectual property is to say that Lance Armstrong is just a little bit guilty.
If you choose to use one of their fortified phrases in your advertising or promotional message, prepare to incur the wrath of the league’s legal lackeys. Or, at the very least, expect a particularly persuasive cease-and-desist letter.
There are infamous stories of the NFL shutting down Super Bowl parties at casinos and, yes, even churches. The league even claims showing the game on a screen larger than 55 inches constitutes copyright infringement. Uh-oh. These days, it’s difficult to find anyone who watches the game on a screen SMALLER than 55 inches.
So, you say, “What can I say that will keep my keister out of court?”
First, here’s what you CAN’T say or print:
* “Super Bowl”
* “Super Sunday”
* The Super Bowl or NFL logo
* “NFL,” “AFC” or “NFC”
* “The National Football League”
* “American Football Conference”
* “National Football Conference”
* Any team name or nickname (i.e. “Ravens” or “49ers”)
Now, here’s what you CAN say or print:
* “The Big Game”
* “The Professional Football Championship Game”
* The date of the game (February 3rd)
* The names of the two competing cities, as long as the team names are not mentioned (i.e. “San Francisco” or “Baltimore”)
* Any statement mocking the fact that the NFL doesn’t allow the media to use any of the forbidden terms. For example, you are allowed to use “Super Bowl” in a radio spot and beep out the word “Super.”
That’s it. Unless, of course, you want to fork out eighty-quadrillion-bajillion dollars to be an “official” sponsor of the Super Bowl. Something tells me the average hometown haberdasher can’t spare that kind of dough to be the “Official Zipper Provider of the Super Bowl.”
Besides, I’m sure someone already has that sponsorship sewn up.
P.S. – “Why can the DJ or News Anchor talk about the Super Bowl and I can’t?” That is considered “nominative fair use.” Defined by BroadcastLawBlog.com:
“It means that DJs can use the term “Super Bowl” editorially in discussing the game on air (but not in a way to imply that the station has a connection to the game, or not in a repeated way analogous to a station slogan or positioning statement). It means that news stories about the game can refer to the “Super Bowl.” The NFL will not consider such uses to be trademark infringement so long as the use is reasonable. In fact, from an editorial perspective, the NFL appreciates some hype about the game to attract viewers and general consumer interest in the game.”