Careful how you use ‘Final Four’


ncaa-logoIn order to protect its copyrighted phrases, the NCAA released a list of terms that cannot be used without prior approval, such as Elite Eight, Final Four, Frozen Four and Big Dance. But don’t be alarmed. Clearly nobody can prevent the use of terms and phrases in editorial writing. You can even use an NCAA logo if it is used for an editorial purpose, such as a fact box.

But the NCAA does require consent to use NCAA logos in advertising or for promotional materials, something newspapers often do when their city hosts a championship event. Editors should read the guidelines for selling advertising placed near a basketball bracket as well. In a letter to editors, the NCAA explains:

The NCAA’s efforts to protect the goodwill associated with its championships are no different than the efforts that you undertake, for instance, to protect your business’ name or logo. Just as you want to be able to determine who uses your name commercially, so does the NCAA.

Still unsure how you can use the logos? Here’s some more clarification:

Federal regulations support the NCAA’s efforts to prohibit the unauthorized use of the NCAA’s name and trademarks (including “Final Four®” and “March Madness®”). These regulations also prohibit any use of NCAA championship tickets in sweepstakes, promotions or contests, or any other unfair attempt to associate with or exploit the goodwill of any NCAA championship event. This includes a prohibition against the display of any commercial identification within an NCAA championship bracket. In addition, NCAA trademarks are not to be used as part of Internet domain names, nor may NCAA trademarks be used on the Internet for commercial purposes.

The NCAA is not alone in its battle to protect its intellectual rights. Companies such as Kleenex, Xerox, and Advil send letters to publications that fail to capitalize their products’ names, worried the term could evolve into a generic term and, as a result, lose legal protection of their trademark. That has happened to aspirin, linoleum, and dry ice, among others. If you do not mean to use these products, you can use generic terms, such as facial tissue, photocopy, and ibuprofen.

So don’t get angry at the NCAA. You wouldn’t want someone using your name inappropriately either.


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