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Hello, sports fans! Are you ready for “the big game” this weekend? Notice how I didn’t say “Super Bowl” because I don’t want to NFL to sue me for improper use of their brand.
Roy Fox knows a thing or two about the NFL’s defense of their brand, as the League pressured him to abondon his trademark application for “Harbowl,” a play on the name of the Harbaugh brothers, coaches of this year’s Super Bowl contenders. John coaches the San Francisco 49ers. Jim coaches the Baltimore Ravens. While there are endless possibilites for puns based on this battle of the bros, Mr. Fox derserves credit for the foresight to trademark “Harbowl” and “Harbaughbowl.” The USPTO processed his trademark application last February, well before there was any certaintly that the Harbaugh brothers would face off in any Super Bowl. As The Examiner recently exposed, the NFL wasn’t going to let Mr. Fox get away with his idea.
The NFL apparently bullied Mr. Fox to drop his trademark application out of concern that unwitting consumers would purchses “Harbowl” gear and mistakenly assume that it was official NFL merchandise. Depite the virtues of distinguishing official merchandise from knockoffs, it is not clear here that Mr. Fox’s slogan was threatening NFL branding. There is no indication that he was going to sell “Harbowl” merchandise under the guise of official NFL merchandise. Instead, it seems like the NFL was just jealous that someone beat them to the punch.
The bullying began when NLF objected to the trademark application and began writing to Mr. Fox “suggesting” that he abandon his quest. Initially resistant, Mr. Fox told the NFL he would abandon the trademark application in exchange for Colts tickets, a simple request considering potentional lost sales once the Harbowl came to frutition. The NFL summarily denied this request and threaten to bring suit, at which point Mr. Fox decided not to continute to seek a trademark for fear of incurring costly litigation expenses.
What’s the moral of this story? From a human interest standpoint, it seems to be “Shame on you, NFL. Pick on someone your own size.” From an intellectual property standoint, it seem to be “Shame on you, NFL. You should have seen this coming and trademarked ‘Harbowl’ yourself.”
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