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NCAA has multiple trademarks associated with Final Four tourney

News and Notes Focused on the 3 Public Faces of IP Law

  • Brand Image Protection - Trademark Law
  • Visual Image Protection - Copyright Law
  • Personal Image Protection - Right of Publicity Law

The Image Protection Law blog has been created in order to share stories and information on the legal aspects of: 1) the marketplace reputation of a company or product captured in its trademark, 2) published or publicly-displayed artwork, photography, and any created visual design, and 3) use of a person's photograph or likeness for product promotion or other commercial purposes.

The "IP3" share at least one thing in common: Image is everything. In these posts let's look at what that means in the realm of intellectual property in the news, but let's also be prepared to explore if there's something more beyond "everything." Don't forget, the intellectual in "intellectual property" doesn't mean smart or brainy, although by nature true creators often are. The word is used to refer to any creation, i.e., a "product of the mind." While this blog will be regularly updated, you are encouraged to share your thoughts on these posts.

Trademarks are not just important for commercial success. It is also vital for some nonprofit organizations to protect their branding in furtherance of their charitable missions.

It may surprise some readers to learn that the National Collegiate Athletic Association, known as the NCAA, is a nonprofit organization. Despite its high-profile tournaments and extensive merchandising, 96 percent of its "expenses" advance its cause of benefitting student athletes and collegiate membership, according to the NCAA website.

While the rest of us were busy filling out our brackets in anticipation of the Final Four, the NCAA planned for financial success from its multi-venue, multi-game tournament by aggressively protecting its many affiliated registered trademarks and phraseology from unauthorized use by businesses for marketing or promotions or the sale of knock-off merchandise. Associated revenue includes that generated by tickets, branded merchandise, ads and other licensed uses.

According to the StarTribune, the NCAA owns "more than two dozen trademarks on words and phrases related to the college basketball tournament" such as:

  • March Madness
  • Final Four
  • Elite Eight
  • And Then There Were Four
  • The Big Dance
  • Dribble (in reference to a children's parade during the Final Four)
  • The Road to Minneapolis
  • And others

In all, the StarTribune reports that the NCAA has approximately 70 trademarks, including the College World Series and the Frozen Four.

The takeaway for other charitable organizations is to seek legal advice about what trademarks they should pursue. Protecting intellectual property can enhance the bottom line, translating into more support for an organization's charitable mission.

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