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Using Your Sports Team’s Branding for Your Own Purposes

Your football team has made the playoffs this year after a drought (Go Ravens!). You are considering harnessing that enthusiasm by using the team logo or name on your website, social media or marketing materials. Or you are even more industrious and want to create T-shirts or other memorabilia with the team name, logo and colors. Trademark law prohibits the 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,” is 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.

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