I am starting a sports-oriented blog and want to use the logos of teams from NFL, MLB, NCAA, etc on the site. The logos would be used strictly for editorial purposes only--ie, to have the logo appear beside the team name when discussing an upcoming game or showing a score. No products are being sold on this website, it is strictly a site to discuss upcoming games, etc.
No, you will get into trouble using the logos. Only use team names. I suggest that you retain an experienced Trademark Attorney to clear your website before it is launched.
For more detailed advice, I recommend that you contact an experienced Trademark/IP infringement attorney to advise you in confidence about your options and potential costs. Many IP specialty firms, like ours, offer an initial free conference by telephone, video conference or in person if you are available locally and would be happy to speak with you. Call and speak with an experienced Trademark /IP attorney who can assist you.
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No. And they are very aggressive at protecting their logos. They will try to shut you down very quickly once it is discovered.
NO you cannot use the logos without prior permission from the NFL, MLB, etc. These organizations really police their trademarks.
I disagree with my colleagues.
I think you'd have the right to have a blog with nothing for sale, no ads, and no commerce whatsoever, that includes logos of. teams in major leagues and colleges. That's not trademark infringement because you wouldn't be using these logos (trademarks) in commerce).
Having so many team logos would minimize the chance that any one of them would taregt your site for trading on their name.
And you'd have to include an appropriate disclaimer that you're not affiliated with any of these teams and leagues.
But these rights are limited. Your task would be to name and advertise this site in a way that wouldn't be likely to confuse any consumers who might mistake your site for one that's officially affiliated with the actual teams/leagues. That wouldn't be easy to do. Even if you relied on the case law holding that "initial interest" is discredited, I'd expect you'd run into problems.
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You received some good insights. You are, as a general rule, permitted to use another's trademark descriptively in text to refer to that mark holder. For example, this is why we see "Coke" or "Pepsi" listed in a menu instead of "cola flavored carbonated beverage." We call that nominative fair use. What you cannot do however is present a false association, endorsement, sponsorship or other affiliation with the mark holder. Using good disclaimers will help here. When you use logos it is often considered to be more than what is necessary to convey your point and thus can cross the line to actionable infringement. This is why there is always more exposure when you use a company's logo and trade dress as opposed to just their text name. Keep in mind however that they still need to show market confusion and when you are using multiple trademarks and logos on the platform it certainly becomes much harder to make that argument as opposed to you using just one team's or franchise's logo. And because you are presumably commenting on those teams specifically I think it would cleanly fall under a fair use scenario regards to copyright as well.
Practically speaking, you run little risk in this case but it is very easy to cross the line and if for whatever reason any of these mark holders dislike what you are doing or saying using their logos certainly provides them with stronger legal arguments.
If you are taking this seriously, I suggest that you consult with a lawyer in private and discuss your objectives in more detail. You can start by calling around to several for a free phone consultation, get some insights then pick the best fit to work with.
DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed with the law firm of Natoli-Lapin, LLC on the basis of this posting.
You cannot use the logos in a way that might to suggest to consumers that your blog is officially associated with the various professional leagues or teams. It is very difficult to find a way to use these logos in a way that avoids consumer confusion.
Further, you have no legitimate reason to use these logos---you want to use them to call attention to your blog---but that is precisely the type of commercial use that is forbidden because of the likelihood of confusion. You have no real need to use the logos---other than to make it appear that your blog is somehow official, and or to confuse people into believing that your blog is endorsed or approved by the leagues. You can make same substantive arguments and provide the same information without using the logos.
Thus, it is highly unlikely that your uses of the log would be protected by the fair use doctrine or First Amendment. The major leagues are very aggressive in enforcing their IP rights---they will view your blog as competition with their own web-sites and mobile applications. If your blog is not widely followed, this probably won't cause a problem for you---but if your blog starts to attract a significant following, the major leagues will pounce on you like a rabid dog. They derive millions (may be even billions) of revenues from their websites, mobile applications, fantasy games, and other such products, and they won't be happy if you take even a small piece of those revenues.
Let's be practical---the only reason you want to use the logos is to appeal to sports fans who might think that somehow your blog is "official" or associated with the leagues and teams. You want to profit by associating yourself with the trademarks of the leagues and their teams. Anytime someone tries to profit based on an association with a famous sports league, franchise, player or celebrity, he will almost surely be violating various intellectual property law rights. You need to find a way to market your blog that avoids the risk of being sued for infringement---which is very high if you use team and league logos.
I am not your lawyer and this is not intended to be legal advice on which you rely. My answer is merely intended to assist you in understanding some of the issues that you face so that you can make an intelligent choice when you hire legal counsel.
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