Legal Hotline: NCAA Trademarks

  • Mar 07, 2018

Melissa Melewsky, Media Law Counsel

Q: What are the rules when using the terms “March Madness,” “Sweet Sixteen,” “Final Four,” and other NCAA trademarks in advertising?

A:
Advertisers cannot use any National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) trademarked terms, phrases or logos without permission from the NCAA.

The NCAA has registered several terms, phrases and logos associated with its annual collegiate basketball tournament with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. You can review a list of NCAA trademarks here. As federally registered trademarks, advertisers cannot use the terms, phrases or logos without permission from the NCAA. Using a trademark without permission from the trademark owner exposes the advertiser and the newspaper to claims of trademark infringement, and the NCAA aggressively defends its trademarks.

The NCAA has created a program for advertisers seeking to use NCAA trademarks. Newspapers working with advertisers that want to use NCAA trademarks should refer advertisers to the NCAA Trademark Protection Program.

The NCAA has also created a memorandum advising media entities on proper and prohibited uses of championship brackets in advertising. You can read the NCAA letter here

As always, this is not intended to be, nor should it be construed as, legal advice. Please contact your newspaper’s private attorney or call PNA’s Legal Hotline at (717) 703-3080 with questions.

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