Essential Pittsburgh
4:02 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

Be Careful How you Use March Madness, Final Four, and other NCAA Tournament Terms

If this baker tried selling these "Final Four" cupcakes they could face legal trouble.
If this baker tried selling these "Final Four" cupcakes they could face legal trouble.
Credit Ben Gillin / Flickr

March Madness, Sweet 16, Elite Eight and Final Four are some pretty popular terms at this time of year. But legal infractions are a common problem for businesses that try to capitalize on all of the championship hype without looking at the copyright issues.

Dave Radack, vice chair of the Intellectual Property Department and member of Eckert Seamans' Board of Directors, works with patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets.

A common question Radack says he gets from clients is “Can I have a March Madness Sale?”

“I would say no, you can’t do that because, for example, Buffalo Wild Wings, if you watched enough of the tournament they do a lot of advertising, they’re a corporate partner of NCAA. They’re allowed to say that, but they pay millions and millions of dollars. If you’re the bar across the street, Buffalo Wild Wings say, ‘Wait a minute, I’m paying millions of dollars to use March Madness and my competitor across the street is using the same thing, I want this to stop.’ And that’s the way people get discovered.”

Radack adds that this is true for many different trademarked sports terms, including "Frozen Four" which is protected by the NCAA, the Stanley Cup is protected by the NHL, and the Super Bowl, protected by the NHL.

How do businesses manage to get around it? Radack says a common phrase used in place of “Super Bowl” is “The Big Football Game on Sunday” and people use similar phrases to talk about other sports championships.