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Don't Go Offsides Using Your Sport's Team's Branding

Your football team has made the playoffs this year after a drought (Go Ravens!). You are considering doing all you can to restart the team’s lagging momentum by using the team logo or name — or the name or likeness of the star quarterback, new linebacker, or reliable kicker — on your website, social media or marketing materials. Trademark law prohibits use of a team’s logo or other trademarks that will confuse consumers into believing there is some affiliation, connection, association, sponsorship or approval between the team and you. (The same rules apply to non-playoff contenders or businesses in general.) Acceptable uses are (for a Ravens fan) using a purple font or purple background or saying “Go Ravens” in your materials. Using words such as “Flock” or “Nevermore” are also defensible. However, using the team’s logo or creating a context that implies official sponsorship or connection with the team could subject you to liability. T-shirt purveyors can be creative and come close to the line. However, be careful: at this time of year, the NFL is policing the marketplace more rigorously.  This repeats advice given this time in past years and will be repeated each year when the Ravens are in the playoffs.

Ned T. Himmelrich
410-576-4171 • nhimmelrich@gfrlaw.com