Planning a Super Bowl party?

Don’t run afoul of the NFL when promoting your event.

by Ryan Peak

Young adults watching footballOrganizations of all types will host events this Sunday to watch Denver and Seattle battle it out for the right to call themselves the best team in the NFL. No matter who you’re rooting for, you will probably promote your event in some way, by sending invitations, posting fliers, or even with a blog post.

Unfortunately for fans, the National Football League (NFL) is very diligent in asserting its intellectual property rights, and it will not hesitate to enforce those rights against infringers. So what’s an organization to do?

First, non-commercial use of a registered trademark is generally okay. So, unless you’re using the trademark to promote your organization, sell products, or raise money (such as by charging admission to a Super Bowl party), your organization is unlikely to infringe on the NFL’s trademark rights. If you have any doubts about your intended use of a registered trademark, we recommend you contact legal counsel to ensure your use is allowed by law.

Second, be aware of the NFL’s registered trademarks and copyrights. How do you know if something is trademarked or copyrighted? If you see it on an NFL or team website, on licensed apparel, in a commercial, or in any other way that implies official use by the NFL or a team, it’s probably trademarked or copyrighted. The following are some of the NFL’s most common trademarked names and logos:

  • “Super Bowl” and the Super Bowl logos
  • “Super Sunday”
  • “Super Bowl Half-Time Show”
  • “Vince Lombardi Trophy” and its corresponding logo
  • “NFL” and the NFL logo
  • Team names (“49ers”), team nicknames (“Niners”), and team logos

To avoid infringement, many organizations use alternative words that the general public understands to mean the Super Bowl, such as the “Big Game.”

Even if you do not use any NFL trademarks in promoting or holding your event, the very act of showing the game to a group of people could be a violation of the NFL’s copyrights to every NFL game. US copyright law requires a license from the copyright owner to use a copyright before:

  • Collecting a fee for viewing copyrighted material;
  • Showing copyrighted material on more than one TV in a room; or
  • Showing copyrighted material on a screen larger than 55” through more than four external speakers.

If you’re hosting an event and have specific questions about your use of trademarked or copyrighted material, please contact us for more information. Otherwise, enjoy the game!

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