March 18, 2014

How to Use the NCAA's Trademarks without Getting Sued

by Stites & Harbison, PLLC


Ncaa Photo
It's NCAA tournament time, and just like the trademark "Super Bowl," you can't use "March Madness" in conjunction with college hoops. The NCAA owns federal trademark registrations for "March Madness," as well as "NCAA Sweet Sixteen," "Elite 8," "Final Four," and many, many more. So, before you launch your NCAA themed latch-hook rug business, you need to consider that the NCAA, like all good trademark owners, enforces its trademark rights vigorously. So, how do you get your "March Madness" rugs to the millions of people who want (need) them, without getting sued? Easy. You get a license. How do you get a license to use the NCAA's trademarks? That's not so easy.

The NCAA's trademarks (like many NCAA teams) are managed by a company called the Collegiate Licensing Company (you can call them the "CLC" for short, because if you want to use the trademarks, you'll be working with them for a very long time). The first step to getting a license is to request an application. This is done with a fairly simple web form. The CLC then sends you a fairly not-simple license application and application guide.

In addition to very detailed information about your business, you will need to provide a lengthy Strategic Marketing and Distribution Plan, proof of insurance, and lots and lots of money. Fees for just the application alone will cost from $4,500 to $21,000 or more for a "standard license" ("local licenses" can be cheaper). The royalties are also quite high: most individual schools require a royalty of around 15% of sales. In fact, the CLC itself warns potential licensees to proceed with caution because these royalty rates drive many companies out of business.

The CLC's licensing program for the NCAA's (and many individual teams') trademarks may appear cumbersome and expensive, but it is a very organized and streamlined way to handle the licensing of very valuable trademarks. It is definitely much, much cheaper and less cumbersome than getting sued for trademark infringement.

The lawyers at Trademarkology provide online trademark registration services backed by the experience and service of one of the nation's oldest law firms. Click here to begin the process of protecting your brand name with a federally registered trademark.