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Intellectual Property Insights from Fishman Stewart PLLC
Newsletter – Volume 24, Issue 4

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Intellectual Property’s Role in Shaping the Super Bowl Experience

By Kameron F. Bonner

This year’s Super Bowl featured a thrilling overtime victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers. With estimates as high as 123 million viewers, America’s premier sporting event also serves as a grand stage for creativity and intellectual property (“IP”) protections that enhance the game’s success. 

From the iconic logos and trademarks of the NFL and its teams, including the Chiefs’ arrowhead logo and the 49ers’ “SF” oval helmet logo, to the highly anticipated halftime show performances and commercials, the Super Bowl underscores the vital role that trademarks, copyrights, and patents play in the commercial and creative aspects of this annual event.

Trademark law is at the forefront of IP considerations during the Super Bowl. The NFL vigorously protects its trademarks, including the terms “Super Bowl” dating as far back as 1969 and “Super Sunday“, to maintain the exclusivity and value of its brand. 

The NFL’s enforcement extends to preventing unauthorized businesses from using the NFL’s trademarks in promotions or on merchandise, a practice known as “ambush marketing.” A vigilant enforcement strategy against ambush marketing helps ensure that only official sponsors and partners can associate their products or services with the big event, much to the delight of paid advertisers whose 30-second commercial slots cost upwards of $7 million. 

Copyright law also plays a significant role, particularly in the halftime show and the broadcast of the game itself. The performances during the halftime show, featuring some of the world’s biggest music stars including Usher, Alicia Keys, Ludacris, Lil Jon,, Jermaine Dupri, and H.E.R. this year, are subject to copyright protection. Additionally, the broadcast rights for the Super Bowl are a major aspect of copyright, with networks paying substantial fees for the exclusive right to air the game, which not only includes the live broadcast but also extends to replays, highlights, and other forms of media distribution.

Patents, however, are an often-overlooked aspect of the Super Bowl, encompassing everything from broadcasting technology to equipment and apparel. The event is a showcase for cutting-edge technologies, including advanced camera systems for broadcasting and immersive virtual reality experiences to enhance viewer and fan engagement. 

The introduction of the 1st & Ten line system, a patented technology that superimposes a bright yellow line on the field to visually display the first-down line on the broadcast, revolutionized how fans watch football (see, e.g., US5917553AUS6100925AUS5953076A). The evolution of player tracking technologies, which use radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to monitor real-time player stat tracking such as described in US10609762B2, has helped fuel the advancement of sports analytics and the proliferation of sports gambling such as Fantasy Football. 

The interplay between IP and the Super Bowl illustrates the importance of innovation in sports and entertainment. By protecting the rights of creators, innovators, and organizations, IP law ensures that the Super Bowl remains at the forefront of technological advancement.

Kameron is a Partner at Fishman Stewart PLLC, specializing in Intellectual Property with over ten (10) years of experience counseling clients on patent, trademark, and related contractual matters. Kameron’s practice encompasses all aspects of preparing, procuring, and enforcing worldwide IP rights. Check out his full bio here.

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