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NFL and College Football Trademarks – Part 2

Many years ago, I wrote an article about using NFL trademarks, which can be found here. As a result of that article, and despite the advice in it, I continue to get many questions asking if an NFL logo can be used to sell something.

Everything Except the Logo?

Some people try to get crafty and offer certain items in the color of the team, and in some cases using a player’s number, but not the team logo/trademark itself. Of course, specific answers to every scenario are not given here. However, in general, if you are not using the NFL logo or collegiate logos (I have received many questions about college logos lately too), then you might just be okay.

Trademark Use and Infringement

Let’s briefly move to the more general topic of trademarks to explain this a bit further. Trademarks are assets that an individual or a company owns and used to identify the source of the goods and/or services. Trademarks are quite valuable, and if you are offering a good and/or service in interstate commerce, you should definitely consider protecting your trademark.

If you are the holder of a trademark, you want to control the use of that trademark as much as possible. This is referred to as policing your trademark. Therefore, if someone is using your trademark without authorization, you must do what you can to stop such behavior, which is referred to as infringement. Also, it is likely not in your financial interest to allow for unauthorized use of your trademark.

The same holds true for the NFL and NCAA. People may think that just because the NFL and NCAA seem to have more money than they can possibly know what to do with, and since anything that bears an NFL or NCAA logo is usually rather expensive, then it must be okay to make it a bit cheaper and sell it. Well, I think we all know the actual answer to that – NO.

Also, just because you are selling a small number of products bearing the NFL and NCAA logo does not mean that you are free to do so. You may be able to fly under the radar of those who are policing these trademarks for some time, but don’t be surprised if you are found and asked to stop.

Licensing a Trademark

So, what does it take to use an NFL or collegiate trademark/logo with their blessing? The same thing that it takes to use any trademark – permission in the form of a license. When it comes to the NFL, there is a pre-qualification process, and information on this process can be found here. However, two of the essentials are that you must be able to pay a minimum royalty to the NFL, which is about $100,000, and you also have to maintain liability insurance in the amount of $6M.

If you have further questions about licensing any type of trademark, enforcing your own trademark, or protecting your trademark, you are welcome to contact me. You also can follow me on Twitter or connect with me on LinkedIn for more information.

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