Intellectual Property Insights from Fishman Stewart PLLC
Newsletter – Volume 23, Issue 5
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By Norman K. Freda
The NCAA lost over $800 million in 2020 when it canceled the tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, the NCAA rebounded by bringing in $1.16 billion, nearly 90% (or around $1 billion) of which came from the NCAA tournament alone. With that kind of money on the line, it’s no wonder bars, restaurants, apparel retailers, media corporations, sports books, and everyone in-between—including urologists whose demand for vasectomies rises 30% during the first weekend of the tournament—will dive on the floor to seize this opportunity to increase revenue as fans gear up, go out, and become enthralled with the NCAA tournament.
As valuable as March Madness is for these ancillary businesses, using the phrase March Madness can yield April Sadness. The NCAA has registered many trademarks associated with the NCAA tournament, including MARCH MADNESS, ELITE EIGHT, FINAL FOUR, THE BIG DANCE, SELECTION SUNDAY, MARCH MAYHEM, SPRING MADNESS, MIDNIGHT MADNESS, MUNCH MADNESS, FIRST FOUR, and more. The NCAA is notorious for aggressively protecting and enforcing its trademark rights; it has sued an online fantasy games maker for using APRIL MADNESS and FINAL 3, a car dealership for using MARKDOWN MADNESS, and a urology practice for using VASECTOMY MADNESS and VASECTOMY MAYHEM. The NCAA even went up against the Big Ten Conference—a collegiate athletic conference comprised of NCAA member universities and NCAA tourney regulars—opposing the Big Ten’s federal trademark application for the mark MARCH IS ON! that the Big Ten had been using for seven years.
If you are looking to capitalize on the NCAA tournament, make sure to draw up your promotional play with a trademark attorney beforehand. The NCAA has shown it is quick to blow the whistle and call a foul when it comes to its trademarks for its most lucrative assets.
Norman K. Freda is an attorney at Fishman Stewart and practices in the fields of patent, trademark, copyright law, and litigation. He holds a BS degree in Applied Engineering Sciences from Michigan State University. Check out his bio.
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