New Jersey residents may know that the Super Bowl attracts millions of viewers and generates billions of dollars in revenue each year. The National Football League has a reputation for fiercely protecting its brand and intellectual property, and the league was joined by the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles on Jan. 24 in filing a lawsuit against an unnamed group of defendants to prevent the widespread counterfeiting of official Super Bowl merchandise.
The NFL is asking a federal court to issue restraining orders that would allow law enforcement to seize counterfeit Super Bowl goods. The league often takes this type of legal action in the weeks before the Super Bowl, and the same Minnesota court issued just such a restraining order the last time the big game was held in the North Star State. In addition to protecting its brand, the NFL says that issuing the restraining orders will safeguard the profits of about 180 companies that have purchased licenses to use its official trademarks and logos.
The league also frowns upon the term ‘Super Bowl” being used in marketing materials for viewing parties. In 2007, the NFL sued an Indianapolis church over this issue. Groups that are planning to watch the game together may be able to avoid legal entanglements if they do not charge an admission fee and hold the viewing parties in their normal gathering places. However, using official team or league logos and branding could lead to contact from NFL lawyers or lawsuits.
Attorneys familiar with trademark law may be unsurprised to learn that the NFL takes this issue seriously. Trademarks are valuable business assets, but courts may be reluctant to enforce them if infringement has routinely been ignored. Attorneys may seek to avoid this situation by monitoring trademarks carefully and taking action promptly when they are used without authorization.