Is it legal to use the phrase "Super Bowl" -- an aggressively protected trademark -- in ads for your business? What about using the words "Super Bowl" in your social media status updates?
The Super Bowl is the biggest television blitz of the year and boasts some of the best ads in the biz. This Sunday, as the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos face off in Super Bowl XLVIII, you may be tempted to get in on the intense advertising action.
But will using the phrase "Super Bowl" without permission get you tackled by the NFL's team of lawyers? Here are three situations to consider:
Nominative Fair Use
A growing number of people are claiming that it's possible that using the phrase "Super Bowl" constitutes "nominative fair use."
Nominate fair use is a legal doctrine that allows you to use a trademark when the product (here, the football game) is tough to identify without using the trademark ("Super Bowl"). But even under nominative fair use, you can't use the trademark gratuitously, and you can't suggest a sponsorship or endorsement by the trademark holder (the NFL).
Unfortunately, nominative fair use typically doesn't extend to commercial use, so your advertisements may not be protected.
If you'd rather play it safe, stick to euphemisms like "Big Game," "Super Football," "The Big Bowl Game," and so forth.
Super Bowl Big Game Sunday!
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Editor's Note, February 5, 2016: This post originally suggested that the term "Super Sunday" may be used. However, this term is also protected by the NFL and should not be used.