Why can't they say "Super Bowl" on the radio?

I understand it’s a copywritten name, but why can’t the local radio stations say “We’re giving away two tickets to the Super Bowl”? They all seem to have to resort to dancing all around the phrase, without actually uttering those two magical words. Is it because they stand to profit by the use of the name in their contests? They can’t even say the names of the teams. It seems a bit silly, as ultimately don’t the owners of the copyright stand to benefit through the most exposure to their “brand name”?

Yep. The NFL has a trademark on the term ‘SuperBowl’ and charges to allow for-profit enterprises to use it. If they allow someone who hasn’t paid to use it they cheapen the value that they can charge their ‘official’ sponsors for the right to use it. And they don’t want that, believe me.

Note: News programs and such can use the term just fine. You won’t see a local sports anchor dancing around the subject. Or the guys on ESPN. Unless it’s in a commercial and their station or network hasn’t worked it out.

Please use ‘search’, as this subject gets worked over every January. It has been beaten to death.

That was a bit mean. Why not just answer the question or provide a link or two?


Guests have an excuse for not searching, but part of the culture here is that members of several years standing should know to do a search before posting obvious questions that probably have been handled before.

And once again an OP fails to understand the difference between copyright and trademark. Super Bowl is a trademark, and by law trademarks must be rigorously defended at all times. A trademark owner doesn’t get to say “oh, that’s just a minor violation” or “that’s just making our name more valuable.” If violations are not defended, someone can challenge the entire trademark in court and have a much better chance of winning.

Sure, but you do realise that things tend to change over time, and not every single question asked in GQ gets a perfect answer, right?
Not that it applies to this particular OP.
It grinds on me when someone knee jerks a “Do a search next time!!” without providing a link to a satisfactory thread. How does philster know the topic has been answered correctly in any previous thread(s) unless he himself has done a search, and then if he has done a search he should be able to provide the link to the thread.

Just say, “Superb Owl.”

To summarize everything in every other thread, ever:

  1. Trademark must be defended.
  2. Never been tested in court. See #1.
  3. Probably okay due to right of first sale, but see #2.

I don’t understand the ratyionale here. Certainly Kleenex gets annoyed when people call other tissues “Kleenex”, and Xerox gets annoyed when people use the product and company name as a generic verb for “photocopy”. That causes the uniqueness of their brand name to be deteriorated, to the point where they might lose that unique name – like aspirin and cellophane and zipper and adrenaline.

But here people aren’t using the name “Super Bowl” to refer to some other big football game – they’re only using it to refer to the one and only Super Bowkl. There’s no chance of deteriooration of meaning whatsoever.

Furthermore, nobody else sues to prevent others from using the name – People talk about “King Kong” climing the “Empire State Building” – not “the big ape movie” with “the big building in New York”. Most people are happy for the publicity. Even the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences, which is touchy about their trasdemark, hasn’t stopped people on the radio from talking about “Academy Awards” and “Oscars”. so howcum on the radio this morning the DJs had to say “Big Game” instead of “Super Bowl”?

Earlier threads on this question:

adrenaline? :confused:
I had to look this one up. “adrenaline” is not a trademark, it is a product of the adrenal gland. However, “Adrenalin” is trademarked. Thanks, Webster’s, for clearing that up.

(I think) If the station is giving away tickets or promoting the event in some fashion as to increase exposure for the radio station but hasn’t paid the NFL to explicitly use the term for this purpose then they can’t use the term.
IOW, the station gains by the fact that there is a game coming up but can’t use the term aid in the gain without payment to the league.
In your other cases it’s unlikely that the station gains from the Oscars, the Academy Awards, or the movie King Kong. Although, if the station were to give away tickets to the movie King Kong could they use the Title in promotions of such activity freely? (I would not think so)

There’s no such word as “copywritten.” It’s “copyrighted.” And you can’t copyright a name.

Assuming Super Bowl is a trade mark, where is the confusion over source of goods if the radio presenter is not trying to call another game a Super Bowl? Trade marks don’t cover simply using the word in conversation or transmitted speech unless there it clearly engenders some detriment to the good will of the mark owner.

We’re using the words here on a subscription (for-profit) message board, for crying out loud!

The issue is not just that the word is being used to describe the thing (“nominative fair use”). It’s that the mark is being used in connection with a promotion, which, the NFL will argue, is unauthorized and diminishes the value of its mark (“trademark dilution”) and interferes with its own profit-generating exclusive arrangements with other profit-making operations (“exclusive” or “official” Super Bowl-related things).

Yes, but people talking about the Super Bowl here are not marketing or selling anything: they are discussing legal issues. And the SD is not using the phrase “Super Bowl” to sell itself.

When a radio station gives away things like game tickets, it is marketing itself; and if it used the phrase “Super Bowl” in that give-away, it would be using the phrase to market itself as a radio station, and so indirectly trying to make money out of the name.

I think the difference is, we don’t stand to profit from mentioning the Super Bowl. Radio stations and the like who run competitions where Super Bowl tickets are the prize do stand to profit - they don’t just give the tickets away out of the kindness of their hearts.

So by the same logic are you not allowed to give away a Ford Mustang without obtaining permission from Ford? You can’t even say what it is you’re giving away? Where does it end?

I hate football anyway. I’ll play football or a football video game, but sitting there for 3 hours watching millionaires run around the field for 5 seconds and spend the next 30 seconds scratching their ass isn’t my idea of fun.

Source: http://www.lsl-law.com/publications/Superbowl.pdf (PDF Warning)

The above legal opinion address use of “Broadcasts and Promotions Related to Super Bowl XXXVIII.” While dated, the article addresses many of the concerns raised here.

I think if Ford wanted to stop you, they’d be completely within their rights to do so.