Tuesday, January 04, 2005

A little law from a football fan

Since I am a lawyer, and since I do want to occassionally post about the law, I thought it fitting to delve into the realm of trademark infringement! You ask what has this got to do with football? Well, it is playoff season and my family's favorite teams are all in the playoffs. I was strolling through a local mall and happened upon a store bursting to the brim with all things (your favorite team here). Naturally, being a rabid pigskin fan, I went in to snoop around. What I saw was table after table of unlicensed NFL merchandise. Now, you may ask what is the harm? The harm is that teams and some players make money off the merchandise sold bearing their logo, name, stats or likenesses. Buying unlicensed merchandise is like taking money from their pockets. Realizing that those pockets are already nicely lined you ask again, what's the harm? The harm is trademark infringement and dilution. Infringement is basically whether the good being sold is likely to cause confusion for a consumer (i.e. confusion about whether the product is an official NFL or player product). Dilution happens when someone's mark is famous and the sale of an unlicensed or unassociated product causes a blurring or tarnishment of the mark. (i.e. casting the mark in a unflattering way.) So if you buy that cheap, and I mean cheap, see through, knock-off Rams t-shirt at your local t-shirt store, it has tarnished the mark. It makes Rams t-shirts look cheap paving the way for a trademark dilution or infringement action. (not to be confused with products made by slave labor for very wealthy actors and which have nothing to do with this post - ahemm twin girls who shall remain nameless!) This is really basic, but the cases can get very technical with sometimes large economic consequences. Because we all know that those big nasty Republican Corporations don't like to be messed with! But seriously, in the world of football, anyone who messes with football gets a world of hurt from NFL Players, Inc., the for-profit licensing arm of the NFL, who doesn't like a cent of its (I mean team and player money) going to anyone else. Trust me, they even, on occassion, attack retired players for trying to cash in (go ahead google them, you know you want to.) Moral of the story is: Don't buy cheap knock-offs, they are ugly and poor little million dollar ball boy gets mad cause he didn't get his $1 from the sale! If you sell this cheap crap, and the NFL Players, Inc. people descend upon you like a pack of wild dogs, google for a good trademark infringement lawyer, yer gonna need one!

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