Over the last decade, we’ve covered Super Bowl topics, it’s that time of year again!

We’ve probed the NFL’s overzealous activities and asked hard fair use questions.

And, with Big Game LII in our backyard, we had a front row ambush marketing seat.

With digital marketing, that front row seat can be anywhere your iPhone takes you:

The top half of the email advertisement from Tuesday, landing in my inbox (shown above), seems to have a better argument for a nominative fair use defense than the the bottom half of the same ad (shown below), agree?

Assuming Birch’s is not an actual licensee, seems to me a rather difficult argument that use of the Super Bowl LIII logo is really fair and necessary for communicating truthfully, but, what say you?

UPDATE:

Hot off the email press and inbox from yesterday, here is another Super Bowl ambush, note their favoring of “Big Game” over “Super Bowl”:

So, they may have avoided the NFL’s wrath, but what about the Patriots and Rams logos on the helmets, fair use, or not, friends?

Here’s to looking at you again, James!

An NFL team and an NBA team are duking it out over trademarks with the word “UPRISING” to be used with eSports.

What is eSports you may ask? It is professional competitive video gaming. Anyone with a teenager has probably heard of Fortnite. Fortnite is a world-wide phenomenon. Over three nights during TwitchCon (which is a Fortnite competition), Fortnite averaged around 65,000 viewers per day across Twitch, YouTube and Facebook. However, there are also numerous other video games such as Hearthstone, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, Star Craft II and Overwatch, among others. Indeed, Overwatch is related to the trademark dispute involving the owner of the New England Patriots.

The dispute involves the marks BOSTON UPRISING and NORTH UPRISING. Specifically, last month, the billionaire owner of the New England Patriots Robert Kraft’s company, Kraft Group, filed a Notice of Opposition against an application filed by the NBA’s Toronto Raptors for the mark NORTH UPRISING (stylized) in connection with clothing and other merchandise that is to be used with video games. The Kraft Group alleges that the stylized mark in the application is similar in stylization and font of its applied for stylized mark for BOSTON UPRISING.

Continue Reading The New England Patriots Are Ready To Battle Off The Field

Not all ambush marketing is created equal. Some can cross the line and create a likelihood of confusion as to sponsorship. Some falsely advertises. But, some is totally fair use and lawful.

This current promotional banner by La-Z-Boy is capitalizing on the excitement surrounding the upcoming Super Bowl weekend festivities, but without reasonable risk of heat from the NFL:

The same can be said for this Lunds & Byerlys in-store signage, with the local grocery chain having tiptoed around the issue entirely by using the Big Game code word instead:

Love the fine-print shout out to local darling, Surly’s Cynic Pale Ale, and the additional shout out to Surly’s “Over Rated” — and clever jab at West Coast IPAs — thankfully no risk of offending all the visiting fans from the East Coast for Super Bowl LII.

By the way, since the Home Team, won’t be playing, merely hosting, which team do you favor from the East Coast, the Philadelphia Eagles or the New England Patriots?

Regardless of which team you were rooting for, this year’s Super Bowl (a/k/a the Big Game) was an exciting one to watch, with the Patriots making a surprising comeback in the second half, racking up 31 consecutive points to overcome the Falcons 28-3 lead. A number of records were made this year, including the first overtime in Super Bowl history, the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, and the first quarterback to win five Super Bowls.

However, one record that was obviously not made this year was a perfect, 19-0 season by the Patriots. In fact, that’s never happened. The closest they’ve gotten is 18-1, after their 14-17 loss in 2008’s Super Bowl XLII to the New York Giants (secured in large part by David Tyree’s famous helmet catch–which the Patriots finally avenged this year with Julian Edelman’s unreal ankle catch).

Because the Patriots haven’t yet had a perfect season, it might come as a surprise that the team was recently granted trademark registrations for “PERFECT SEASON” (Reg. No. 5095619) and “19-0” (Reg. No. 5100521). These two registrations cover mostly the same goods and services in five classes, including for example, several types of clothing, toys and sporting goods, and providing sports and entertainment information. The Patriots had optimistically filed applications for these trademarks in January 2008, before their Super Bowl loss to the Giants, resulting in an 18-1, un-perfect season. After numerous office actions and extension requests over the course of nine years, registration was granted for both marks a couple months ago.

One of the requirements for a trademark registration is actual use in U.S. commerce–so you may be wondering how this requirement was established when the Patriots have never had a perfect season or attained a 19-0 record. Although thousands of T-shirts were printed in anticipation of a “perfect” season before the 2008 Super Bowl, they were shipped to other countries and never sold in the U.S., and thus no use in commerce occurred.

The Patriots found an interesting workaround that was accepted by the USPTO. They licensed the use of the “PERFECT SEASON” and “19-0” marks to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, which produced a DVD of the 2015 state football championship game between two high school teams–Xaverian Brothers and Central Catholic. Xaverian prevailed and accomplished a perfect season, winning its 24th straight game (spanning two seasons). As for the specimen (the proof of use in commerce), the Patriots submitted a photograph of the DVD about that championship game, bearing the printed labels “A Perfect Season” and “A 19-0 Product.”

One might question the Patriot’s efforts and use of resources over nine years to trademark two phrases that probably aren’t usable or profitable for them from a branding perspective (at least not yet)–I can’t imagine many consumers would be interested in purchasing goods or services from the Patriots bearing these marks. Also, it will be unfortunate if one of the other 31 NFL teams goes undefeated before the Patriots do, as the Patriots might try to prevent that team from commemorating a “perfect season” on their merchandise. On the other hand, maybe the Patriots will attempt some other creative, optimistic uses of the marks, before their “perfect season” is actually accomplished. What do you think?

Now that Super Bowl XLIX is in the rear view mirror, and the New England Patriots have been duly congratulated for winning anything but a Mediocre Bowl, for those of us with no pigskin in the big game this year, it’s time to think about the possible magic of Super Bowl L.

Wait what? Is that really a good idea, given the recognized meaning of the L-word?

After all, Glee and others have done too impressive of a job cementing the “loser” meaning to L, even though another more positive alternative branding cliche exists: Leadership (as we’ve noted before).

The NFL began using Roman numerals to designate each Super Bowl, beginning with the single-letter V in 1971 for the 5th Super Bowl, and continuing through X to designate the 10th Super Bowl in 1976, all the way to XLIX as depicted above.

However, back in June 2014, the NFL finally announced it would lose the Roman numeral graphic design, kind of like the disappearing 13th floor in an elevator, because Super Bowl “L” wouldn’t be aesthetically pleasing by itself, at least to some — probably unlucky too.

So, next year, Super Bowl L won’t exist, instead we’ll be talking about Super Bowl 50, the Golden Bowl, to be played in the Golden State at the home field of the San Francisco 49ers, who mined for gold back in the day.

Then, after a one year hiatus from that pesky singular Roman numeral, the NFL plans to be back in the Roman numeral business with Super Bowl LI in Houston, and more importantly, Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis in 2018. Make sure to come see us!

I’m thinking the NFL probably made the right call in losing the solo L for the 50th Super Bowl, the graphic on the left below just doesn’t work and only invites ridicule — but, do our readers who are graphic designer types agree? Was there no possible way to sell an elegant solo L?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think, will the Roman numerals make a comeback in Houston for Super Bowl 51?

Oh, I almost forgot, what did you think of the Super Bowl ads?

Budweiser tugged at the heartstrings again, this time with Puppy Love.

Seems like there were lots of ads promoting other television programs — since I’m a huge fan of The Voice and Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome, that combo was hard to beat for me.

Fiat’s use of a little blue pill to introduce the new 500X made me, as a trademark type, wonder what Pfizer thought about it, can you say Viagra?

Does Fiat not appreciate that Pfizer also owns a non-traditional trademark registration for the color blue as applied to a diamond shaped dosage tablet?

Was Fiat’s use of a hexagonal-shaped tablet enough to avoid the scope of non-traditional trademark rights held by Pfizer? Might some have thought it simply was another funny co-branding Super Bowl ad?

So, which Super Bowl ads were your favorites and why?