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The NFL's legal team has vigorously defended its trademark name: Which it stole in 1966.

Perhaps you saw an ad on TV, or a flier in a newspaper, or some other form of advertising that refers to Sunday’s NFL Championship Game between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks as “the big game.”

Why, you may wonder, don’t they just say “Super Bowl?”

Because, they can’t – at least not without having the NFL and its trademark lawyers suing them.

Every year, someone gets in BIG TROUBLE for violating what the NFL says are the laws protecting the Super Bowl. (By the way, we can use that term in news stories to describe the game, but our advertisers are sternly warned to not do it, or else!)

This year, for example, a cigar store owner near the stadium where the “Big Game” will take place wanted to put up a banner that reads “Super Bowl” to help his area of the business district (and, yes, to bring in more customers). But he received a stern warning, and now faces the prospect that despite having tens of thousands of tourists in his neighborhood, the Super Bowl will probably mean less business for him.

And a few years ago, the NFL targeted churches. Yes, you heard it right. Many churches received nasty legal correspondence from those NFL lawyers, warning them to not have a Super Bowl party.

That’s right: The NFL will not stand for churches letting people fill the pews to watch their “Big Game,” and any House of God who tries to do this could end up in the house of justice.

Obviously, the NFL has not thought this through. When people go to churches to see the Super Bowl, they are seeing all of the Super Bowl ads (from companies who pay a few million per 30-second commercial) on screens that are much bigger. And those people who watch the game in such public places are much less likely to change the channel or leave the room during commercial breaks. The NFL should be asking churches and every other organization to host a Super Bowl party.

But, of course, they don’t

The silly think about all of these “Super Bowl” trademark lawsuits is that the NFL is going to court to defend a trademark that they stole from someone else.

Lamar Hunt, the former Kansas City Chiefs owner, was among the group of men responsible for organizing and promoting the first NFL Championship Game.

But the NFL wanted a unique name to set this apart from previous games, and to indicate the way the league had changed.

Hunt watched his kids playing with a cute little rubber ball that bounced all over when his children threw it. So he started, as a joke, saying “Super Bowl.”

Hunt – who said that phrase was “far too corny” to become the official title of this very important contest, wrote to NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle in 1966.

"If possible, I believe we should coin a phrase for the Championship Game. I have kiddingly called it the 'Super Bowl,' which obviously can be improved upon,” he told to Rozelle

Apparently, the NFL could not improve upon it, so that “far too corny” Super Bowl name – brazenly stolen from the Wham-O Company – has identified the NFL’s biggest event for nearly a half century.

So, not only is the NFL acting the part of a bully, it’s going to court to keep others from using a name it stole from someone else.

I hope that somewhere, this year, some business has published an ad or commercial similar to the one I created for this story. And when they end up in court, I hope they have the foresight to cover the courtroom floor with Super Balls. That way, the judge could see that the NFL clearly has no standing to sue in such cases.



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The NFL isn't the only sports-related association with a vicious reputation of defending trademarks. I've heard many stories of business getting in trouble from the IOC for producing merchandise with the Olympic Rings logo on it, or for simply displaying the logo on their website or building without the IOC's blessing. I wouldn't be surprised if lawyers come knocking at the new martial arts place downtown, since they display the Rings in their window.
By: Cristopher Sturtz on January 31st 11:55am

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