The Super Bowl is probably the most attractive event of the year for advertisers. Companies tend to sink huge amounts of resources into Super Bowl commercials, aware that they will reach millions of viewers. They also are competing with commercials by other businesses that are just as lavishly and painstakingly designed. This makes it even more challenging to produce a commercial that the audience will remember.
The Dimopoulos Law Firm in Las Vegas aired a one-minute commercial during halftime of Super Bowl LVII last month. The commercial featured athletes with various connections to Las Vegas, including NHL forward William Karlsson and mixed martial artist Jon Jones. Also featured was Maxx Crosby, a defensive end on the Las Vegas Raiders. Crosby appears in a black football jersey with silver letters and numbers, as well as a silver helmet. Black and silver are the colors of the Raiders, but the name or logo of the team does not appear in the commercial.
This oblique way of indicating Crosby’s presence on the Raiders did not escape the attention of the NFL. The merchandising and licensing branch of the league, known as NFL Properties, sent a cease-and-desist letter to the law firm on February 22. NFL Properties gave the Dimopoulos Law Firm a week to respond.
The law firm responded on March 1 by filing a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada. Suing to avoid being sued may seem like a strange way to handle the situation, but the law firm is asking the federal court for something called “declaratory relief.” This is essentially a statement that a party to a case was or was not legally within their rights to do something. In this case, the Dimopoulos Law Firm wants the federal court to find that it did not infringe the trademark rights of the NFL or the Raiders through the commercial.
If the court finds its arguments persuasive and issues this finding, it would prevent or undermine any ensuing lawsuit by the NFL. Other companies may want to monitor how this situation develops to see what a court thinks about the scope of a sports league’s trademark rights. This could influence strategies for commercials by other businesses.
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