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Trademark C&D sent to March Madness Half Marathon

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Trademark C&D sent to March Madness Half Marathon

Post  carleenp on Mon Mar 12, 2012 10:18 am

The "March Madness Athletic Association" which is a division of the NCAA, sent the people behind the very popular March Madness Half Marathon in Illinois, a cease and desist letter claiming that their use of "March Madness" violates thier trademark.

I am an attorney, but I do not specialize in IP law. However, I see several problems with this. I'm kind of hoping they don't just roll over and cave into it.
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Re: Trademark C&D sent to March Madness Half Marathon

Post  Admin on Mon Mar 12, 2012 10:26 am

Pretty sure it's enforceable. If 'March Madness' is a secured trademark then the owning organization has to police it's usage or the trademark can be taken away. It can be licensed for a fee, much like the phrase 'Super Bowl' is owned by the NFL and cannot be used without a license. Hence, all those ads that now refer to the super bowl as 'the Big Game'.

All the NCAA is doing is protecting their revenues. I'm sure there is a lot of merchandise and ad money tied to the phrase 'March Madness'.

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Re: Trademark C&D sent to March Madness Half Marathon

Post  carleenp on Mon Mar 12, 2012 10:32 am

I don't think it is that simple, filing a mark does not give automatic protection. There are issues of dilution and confusion etc. For example, the Super Bowl cannot necessarily tell a restaurant called the "Super Bowl" that serves soup in big bowls that it can't have that name. It can get rather complicated quickly. Although that it is an athletic event and the NCAA event is also athletic cuts against them.

I think it would be an interesting case, and groups or companies sometimes push trademark when it really is overreaching, which is why I hope they don't cave immediately. But they probably lack the funds to fight it.


Last edited by carleenp on Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:09 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Trademark C&D sent to March Madness Half Marathon

Post  carleenp on Mon Mar 12, 2012 10:34 am

Oh, and the race is this coming weekend and the C&D gave them 48 hours. That could be messy if they do cave! No T-shirts, nothing with the name on it etc.... Although maybe they could cut a deal with the NCAA.
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Re: Trademark C&D sent to March Madness Half Marathon

Post  Dave-O on Mon Mar 12, 2012 10:56 am

Very interesting.

I have never done IP law either, so I have no clue as to the merits of the C & D letter.
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Re: Trademark C&D sent to March Madness Half Marathon

Post  carleenp on Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:08 am

@Dave-O wrote:Very interesting.

I have never done IP law either, so I have no clue as to the merits of the C & D letter.

I thought you might find it interesting.

I know areas of copyright law and various areas of online media law very well, but other than knowledge of the basic way to go about filing a trademark and more basic trademark law, I lack the detailed information to make a good judgment call on it. Best I can do is come up with some decent arguments for both sides based on my limited experience in the area.
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Re: Trademark C&D sent to March Madness Half Marathon

Post  Dave-O on Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:16 am

@carleenp wrote:
I know areas of copyright law and various areas of online media law very well, but other than knowledge of the basic way to go about filing a trademark and more basic trademark law, I lack the detailed information to make a good judgment call on it. Best I can do is come up with some decent arguments for both sides based on my limited experience in the area.

And I know about as much as the average person off the street...never taken an IP law class, not covered on the Illinois bar, etc.

I emailed a buddy of mine that specliazes in IP law to get his thoughts. I'll share them here when he responds.
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Re: Trademark C&D sent to March Madness Half Marathon

Post  carleenp on Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:31 am

Cool. I'm interested in his thoughts. It is one of those legal questions that got our office talking and debating this morning since a bunch of us are runners, but none of us have any real expertise in the area.
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Re: Trademark C&D sent to March Madness Half Marathon

Post  Admin on Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:48 am

I suspect that the NCAA has the stronger case as the 'March Madness' running event was almost certainly created after the reference to college basketball's 'March Madness' tournament became popularized (and trademarked). In addition, it would be difficult to argue damages to the running event for future years... they could easily change the name to 'March Mayhem' or something else. The only issue I see is with the current year. To expect the race to change medals, t-shirts, etc with 48 hour notice seems unreasonable. The only way for the race to comply at this point is probably cancellation. I would hope something could be worked out with the NCAA.

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Re: Trademark C&D sent to March Madness Half Marathon

Post  carleenp on Mon Mar 12, 2012 12:23 pm

I don't know if they would have to cancel or if they could remove the shirts and medals etc. I have never run the race, so I don't know how much branding they have on things at the event. Either way would result in some very annoyed runners. That race is very popular and sells out in less than an hour.

The wikipedia entry on trademark infringment has the legal test for enforcment of a mark when the events are not identical. It sets it out pretty well the factors used for deciding whether there is a likelyhood of confusion, which is the primary deciding factor: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trademark_infringement
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Re: Trademark C&D sent to March Madness Half Marathon

Post  JohnP on Mon Mar 12, 2012 12:35 pm

I'm running this race this year. They have really cool shirts and sometimes sweatshirts with the name usually. I hope we don't lose these. Unless one of the runners in this running club is a IP lawyer, my guess is they will cave. It would take a lot of resources to fight the NCAA. I assume they trademarked this name before this event started years ago.



Interesting sidenote - on the race's web site, it says this:

PREMIUM/AMENITIES


A specially designed, hoody sweatshirt commemorating the 34th running of the March Madness race will be provided to the first 1000 pre-registered runners. Finishing medals will be awarded to all runners that complete the course on race day.


Unless March Madness was trademarked before 1978, maybe this race was using it and has a chane to keep using it, especially since it has nothing to do with college or high school basketball.
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Re: Trademark C&D sent to March Madness Half Marathon

Post  Michele "1L" Keane on Mon Mar 12, 2012 3:05 pm

Wonder why the NCAA would even bother? How big is this race? It isn't national or anything - just a Chicagoland thing.
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Re: Trademark C&D sent to March Madness Half Marathon

Post  carleenp on Mon Mar 12, 2012 3:22 pm

I did a bit of research and apparently the march madness term originated with the IL High School tournament. The C&D mentions that they also hold their trademark in it. I'm guessing they licensed it from them. That is probably where there is more of a connection.
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Re: Trademark C&D sent to March Madness Half Marathon

Post  Dave-O on Sun Mar 18, 2012 4:00 pm

So did the race cave? Website still has term March Madness. Did the race shirts?
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Re: Trademark C&D sent to March Madness Half Marathon

Post  carleenp on Sun Mar 18, 2012 4:54 pm

@Dave-O wrote:So did the race cave? Website still has term March Madness. Did the race shirts?

I think they had the race as planned without responding to the NCAA and then they will look at changing it for next year. Last I heard that seemed to be the plan. It probably was a safe risk to take since the NCAA likely doesn't want to actually litigate it.
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Re: Trademark C&D sent to March Madness Half Marathon

Post  littlewally and farnk on Sun Mar 18, 2012 5:05 pm

Ran the raced today. Medals and Sweatshirts were handed out.
Start line had MARCH MADNESS wording.

Perfect example of stupid Americans. This is a tiny race, in a tiny town and some stupid lawyer wants things changed so there is no confusing basketball for running. HORSE SHIT!!!!!!!!!!!
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Re: Trademark C&D sent to March Madness Half Marathon

Post  JohnP on Sun Mar 18, 2012 7:35 pm

Another good sweatshirt from this year's race, they have great shirts/sweats. Ironically it's much too warm to be using one now.

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Re: Trademark C&D sent to March Madness Half Marathon

Post  littlewally and farnk on Sat Mar 31, 2012 9:00 pm

Found another violator, and this hits ways closer to the Basketball theme!
MARCH MADNESS
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Re: Trademark C&D sent to March Madness Half Marathon

Post  mul21 on Sun Apr 01, 2012 12:08 am

I'm pretty sure they're SOL. The IHSA tried to trademark the term March Madness like 10-12 years ago and got shot down in court. I really don't think the NCAA has a leg to stand on because if I remember right, they were the ones fighting to be able to use it and prevent the IHSA from getting exclusive rights.
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Re: Trademark C&D sent to March Madness Half Marathon

Post  carleenp on Sat Apr 07, 2012 8:01 pm

IHSA had the trademark on it since early in the century. When the NCAA tried to assert it, they lost and ended up licensing it from the IHSA. The cease and desist sent to the race was sent on behalf of both the NCAA and the IHSA.
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Re: Trademark C&D sent to March Madness Half Marathon

Post  Julio on Sun Apr 08, 2012 10:56 am

Next Up, McDonald's sues the Shamrock Shuffle...
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