Stanford and Cal Cooperate over Big Game

As a loyal Stanford alum, I don’t think I ever thought I’d see the day where Stanford and Cal would link arms over The Big Game. Thank goodness for the NFL, which has applied for a trademark on “The Big Game,” a title that has been applied for many decades to the annual football game between Stanford and Cal.

I’m hardly the first to think that the NFL’s behavior is ill-advised and heavy handed. A quick Google search turns up blog after blog making fun of the NFL’s behavior. That having been said, I’m curious…..Is there anyone other than NFL counsel who’s out there supporting this behavior or the asked-for result?

The NFL’s explanation is that they want to stop people from piggy-backing on the goodwill of the Super Bowl — you know, selling TV’s for “your big Super Bowl party.” In the story linked to above, the NFL says it sells sponsorship rights to Samsung, and suggests that the value of those rights would dissipate if they didn’t get the trademark. I’m a little surprised that someone isn’t defending this outcome as “correct” because it allows internalization of all social value from the Super Bowl to the NFL, thereby giving the NFL the proper market signal to invest in putting on its annual extravaganza. Perhaps I’ve missed it? Heaven knows I don’t read the whole blogosphere. Or, has the NFL taken us past the limits of the “internalize all externalities” policy?

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2 Responses

  1. Aside from the fact that Big Game is Big Game (yes, I went to Stanford, too), I don’t see how the NFL could ever get this mark anyway:

    1. It is merely descriptive, and

    2. Couldn’t have any secondary meaning, because

    3. The NFL has never used the term to describe the game in a trademarked way.

    All three are trademark registration killers.

  2. greglas says:

    I agree that even without all the ruckus, this one is going nowhere.

    I poked around looking for a lay IP-Demsetzian defender and couldn’t find one. Who knows, though, the Progress & Freedom Foundation might step up to the plate this week. 🙂

    I think the problem here is that the lay blogger is going to naturally presume that trademark rights entail absolute ownership, hence if this issued, no one would be able to say “big game” in casual conversation. (See how some bloggers feign concern that they, and everyone else, are at risk of no longer being able to say “big game” if NFL gets its way.)

    The nail in the coffin for this one, from the lay perspective, is definitely the Stanford/Cal game.