It’s the month of March, and most of us are highly aware of the NCAA’s basketball tournament that dramatically decreases work productivity and determines the college basketball national champion. If you’re thinking about entering the hype and using any of the NCAA’s trademarks in your promotions and marketing this month, it’s important to consider your use very carefully. The reason: the NCAA has trademarked a slew of marks associated with the tournament, such as “NCAA,” March Madness,” “Final Four,” the “Big Dance” and any corresponding logos. These marks are all federally registered trademarks of the NCAA, and the NCAA zealously defends them.
The NCAA has been using the mark MARCH MADNESS for over three decades and has recently attempted to claim further rights in the term “March”, quite possibly with respect to any services rendered in conjunction with sports-related entertainment services. This is how it happened. A little over a year ago, the Big Ten Conference filed a federal trademark application based on an intent to use the mark “MARCH IS ON!” for services related to sporting events and contests. The application was reviewed by a United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) examiner, who ultimately determined that there were no conflicting marks that would bar registration of this mark and the application was published for opposition in August of 2016. The NCAA did not respond kindly to this application and after exhausting several extensions of time to oppose formally filed an opposition on Feb. 13, 2017.