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Can I make a phone app that just tells you where and when sports teams are playing (MLB teams, NFL teams, etc.) without logos?

Oakland, CA |

I'm trying to avoid any legal troubles over trademarks and intellectual property, so my app wouldn't use any team logos. But can I still use the team's NAME without any legal problems -- along with factual information about where they'll be playing? (For example, "On Monday, November 14th, the Dallas Cowboys play in Chicago at 1:00 p.m.")

I'm especially worried about how I can give the app a title. For example, if I named it "The Dallas Cowboys game finder," have I then committed trademark infringement? (Do I have to call it something generic like "Game Finder" instead?)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ UPDATE: So if the app has a generic title, like "Pete's Game Finder," would it still be trademark infringement to include the full name of the team when the app displays information? I guess the question all comes down to: can I say "The Dallas Cowboys play the Chicago Bears on November 14th" -- or do I have to say "Dallas plays Chicago on the 14th?" (I'd thought about saying "Chicago plays Dallas at Cowboys Stadium" -- but I'm guessing the stadium names are also trademarked?)

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Attorney answers 5

Posted

I see newspapers do this all the time. Not sure what your concern is.

Pamela Koslyn

Pamela Koslyn

Posted

No consumer could reasonably think that the paper is affiliated with a team. A reader would just know that the paper is reporting sports facts. A computer app, however, could very easily be wrongly taken to be a product of the team's. That's trademark infringement.

Scott Richard Kaufman

Scott Richard Kaufman

Posted

Shows what I know.

Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

Unless, of course, the app has multiple schedules from multiple teams as do all the major sportscore sites. I like Yahoo Sportacular. You might look at how they do it.

Posted

You have the right idea - avoid using the team's logos and trademarks (and team colors, and other "trade dress" indicia" that could mislead consumers about whether your app is affiliated with or endorsed by them). Yes., facts like when and where and who a team is playing, are unprotectible facts, and no one owns them, so you can create an app with that information. You can't just link to an existing source that's already created a schedule, likee the team's own website, however.

So same goes with the app name. Using the team's city with their name may indeed confuse their fans/consumers and get you a "cease and desist" or letter or a lawsuit. Unless you have a way to add a prominent disclaimer about your app's lack of affiliation with the pro team, you'd be committing trademark infringement. Yes, find another app name, and hire a trademark lawyer to register it, as well as a patent lawyer to patent the invention itself.

Avvo doesn't pay us for these responses, and I'm not your lawyer just because I answer this question or respond to any follow-up comments. If you want to hire me, please contact me. Otherwise, please don't expect a further response. We need an actual written agreement to form an attorney-client relationship. I'm only licensed in CA and you shouldn't rely on this answer, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it's impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue.

Philip Leon Marcus

Philip Leon Marcus

Posted

Ms Koslyn has given you excellent advice. You might call your app "Dallas Pro Sports Game Finder" or "Dallas Pro Game Finder." It could cover other sports in season and, incidentally, cover your tender part.

Posted

Ms. Koslyn is correct.

The main concern is Trademark infringement, and if you research "likelihood of confusion" you will find some simple definitions to give you some guidance.

Good luck.

My disclaimer is simply that Avvo already has an adequate disclaimer.

Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

Definitions, YES. Simple definitions? NO, not even after hundreds of court cases.They are not simple, as the court cases attest. As you know, it often takes an experienced trademark attorney to understand fully the definitions, and to know those definitions vary from circuit to circuit.

Posted

Yes. But that's not the question. The question is will you be likely to have legal problems if you do.

You can give the app the name "Pete's game finder" [substitute your real name] rather than "The Dallas Cowboy game finder." Pete is not the Dallas Cowboys, and it is confusing to say otherwise and confusion will get you into trouble. Quick, what would you do if you were the attorney responsible for protecting the servicemark THE DALLAS COWBOYS from use by person's not affiliated with or licensed by the NFL or the team? And remember, your management can replace you at any time if they think you are letting people like Pete slide by. See, you SHOULD be worried. If you want to NOT be worried, hire a trademark attorney and let the trademark attorney solve your worries and turn them into solutions and things YOU can protect so that other people have to worry about YOU, not you about them. Think how much that would be worth to you and you will know what to do. Since your app would be nationwide, even international, in use you can use a good IP lawyer or Internet lawyer anywhere in the US.

I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is at your sole risk. This is done without compensation as a free public service. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and I am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is strictly general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.

Posted

The First Amendment as interpreted by case law gives you the right to report on facts such as where and when sports teams are playing. But you cannot suggest any association of your app with sports leagues or teams---thus you would need to use a generic title rather than use the name of a specific team or league (i.e., pro football game finder).

Your question does not raise the most important issue here---whether this application can be developed and practice without violating patent law. You need counsel to provide a patent clearance analysis because there are literally hundreds of potentially applicable patents. Even if you solve the trademark and copyright law problems, you still have to make sure your application does not infringe third party patents.

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