As others have duly noted (Maurice Ross, David Oxenford) the NFL is zealous in its enforcement over what it deems unauthorized use or infringement of its Super Bowl trademarks. To give added context to this thread, which naturally surfaces at this time of year due to the hype associated with the event itself, we’ve listed all citations of the NFL’s marks over the past five years in the table below, to gain insight into what obstacles applicants face with respect to potential blocking marks owned by the league. To what extent are Super Bowl trademarks being blitzed?
What’s immediately striking is that only 12 citations (listed at the top of the table) refer specifically to Super Bowl trademarks. The vast majority of NFL marks cited have no specific relation to the big game. Given the press the NFL has received over the years regarding its offensive Super Bowl stance, at least from the trademark application perspective the hype does seem overblown. This is not to say that the league’s enforcement activities are unwarranted. Infringement and unauthorized use can be prevalent within the market, nonetheless. But in looking at this list of refused applications, one can’t help but be unimpressed by the foolishness exhibited by some of these applicants. What were they thinking?
Still, there are also some instances where at first glance it seems the examiner was a bit overzealous as well (how about Red Zone Soccer?) We haven’t tracked outcomes, so it’s premature to comment further, but just because these were initially refused doesn’t mean the game ended there.
It’s evident from this analysis (and generally from what we see weekly in our 2(d) Citation Watch) that USPTO examiners provide good defensive zone coverage for all mark owners, not just the NFL. So while it may be true that the NFL is itself aggressive in enforcing trademarks rights within its gridiron, the USPTO is also no slouch when it comes to making sure applicants don’t impinge the trademark rights of others.