-Martha Engel, Attorney
Here’s hoping your 2016 brackets did better than mine last week, but this has been quite a crazy and exciting tournament thus far. As a Marquette fan, the Indiana–Notre Dame–Wisconsin area of the bracket has been quite disheartening. And the buzzer beaters galore this tournament have left many faces looking somewhat like Indiana coach (and former Marquette coach) Tom Crean’s from a few years ago:
Much to my surprise the other day, I encountered the following allowed trademark application for MARCH CRAFTNESS for use in connection with “providing recognition and incentives by the way of awards and contests to demonstrate excellence in the field of brewing beer.” The applicant merely needs to put in a Statement of Use, and a certificate of registration will issue. Surprisingly given the NCAA’s history on the mark, there was no opposition by the NCAA.
Beer and the NCAA don’t publicly mix for the tournament (well, except when viewing the games at the bar with your buddies). The NCAA’s alcohol policy bans sale of beer during the tournament at venues and encourages sales to be banned near campus throughout the regular season. They even cover up beer advertisements in the arena during the tournament in venues that often do not host regular season games. It would be interesting to see how the Applicant for MARCH CRAFTNESS uses it in a way that dispels any likelihood of consumer confusion or dilution of the MARCH MADNESS mark.
But there are other registered marks or allowed marks at least as similar to MARCH MADNESS as MARCH CRAFTNESS, including MARCH RADNESS for skiing and snowboarding services. There is also a registration formerly owned by Heifer International and transferred to the NCAA for MARCH MATCHNESS for charitable fundraising services. Might the NCAA adjust their alcohol policy and decide to participate in the craft beer craze with MARCH CRAFTNESS? Even if they purchased the mark from the applicant, the NCAA would still have to use it in order to retain rights in it.
Incidentally, there is already sort of a “Big Dance” of beer on the Washington Post called BEER MADNESS so I am curious to see how the applicant for MARCH CRAFTNESS ultimately uses the mark. Unlike the tournament, really good beers from Northern Iowa, Wisconsin, Iowa, Green Bay, and other parts of the Upper Midwest where teams didn’t make the tournament (e.g. Minnesota), seemed conspicuously absent from the Beer Madness bracket. Upon review of the bracket, my face probably looked a little like Tom Crean’s above. I hope that’s not a sign that “Fly Over Country” is “Drink Over Country” because breweries in this region routinely win top awards at major beer festivals. What would be in your March Madness Final Four of beer?