The NFL is notorious for guarding its intellectual property rights to the full extent of the law. As the most popular and most profitable sporting event in the United States, the Super Bowl is clearly the NFL's most prized trademark, and the rules governing its broadcast and appearance are accordingly very strict.
Without the clear permission of the NFL, broadcasters and other media may not use the following terms or images:
"Super Bowl" "Super Sunday" The Super Bowl logo "NFL," "AFC" or "NFC" "The National Football League" "American Football Conference" "National Football Conference" Any team name or nickname
Media outlets may state the following terms and information without the NFL's permission:
"The Big Game" "The Professional Football Championship Game" The date of the game The names of the two competing cities, as long as the team names are not mentioned Any statement mocking the fact that the NFL doesn't allow the media to use any of the forbidden terms
Because the NFL has a firm grip on its legal marketing rights, it is free to license the trademarks listed above at a very high price. For a potato chip company to put the words "Super Bowl" on the bags of its product, as the "official snack of the Super Bowl," for example, it will have to pay the NFL a large sum of money.
In addition to the need for licensing NFL trademarks for product promotions, companies and media outlets must also license the trademarks if they wish to support their own sales, broadcasts or publications. Calling a news station "your Super Bowl headquarters," for example, requires the licensing fee.
The NFL also carefully regulates public viewings of the Super Bowl. No one may charge admission to a viewing of the game because this would violate the NFL's copyright of the telecast. Even the size of the screen in public viewings is important; no one may publicly broadcast the game on a screen larger than 55 inches diagonally.
Nominative Fair Use
News programs and other media may use the trademarked terms under a special condition called nominative fair use. When simply reporting the facts of the game after it has occurred, for example, reporters may say the phrase "Super Bowl" and the names of the teams involved. Still, the use of the terms must be strictly informative and imply no association between the media and the NFL.
- american football image by Christopher Walker from Fotolia.com