Posted by Barry Silverstein on March 3, 2010 04:18 PM
Marketers always want to capitalize on major sports events, as evidenced in the recent Winter Olympics, when some advertisers who were not official Olympic sponsors tried to use the Olympics to their advantage. If they are not officially sanctioned, these marketers do so at their own risk.
That's why Reebok is being taken to task – and to court – for manufacturing and marketing a "Finish Strong! We Are Saints" t-shirt in association with the 2010 Super Bowl.
A company called Finish Strong is suing the sportswear company for infringing on its trademark. Company founder Dan Green wrote a book titled "Finish Strong" that inspired Saints quarterback Drew Brees to adopt the phrase as his mantra. The New Orleans Saints, of course, pulled off an upset win in the Super Bowl.
The lawsuit claims that Finish Strong "had a registered trademark on the phrase since 1998 and uses it in a branded line of apparel..." In contesting the suit, Reebok says the phrase was "widely adopted and reported in the media" and that the company "clearly used the words in a purely descriptive manner... and not in any way likely to be taken as an indication of origin..."
Interestingly, this isn't the first legal trademark action surrounding Super Bowl XLIV. The National Football League tried to stop unauthorized manufacturers from using the phrase "Who Dat" on t-shirts that "were marketed or presented as official Saints gear." No law suits were filed, however.
It only goes to prove that trademarking phrases is no game. The use of these phrases can lead to big money – and that's why brands aggressively defend them.