March Madness Trademark History

With the March Madness Tournament right around the corner I thought today would be a good day to inform those who don't know the interesting history surrounding "March Madness." The tournament didn't really take off until after the 1979 NCAA championship game between Magic Johnson's Michigan State team and Larry Bird's Indiana State. Brent Musburger popularized the term during the 1980s. But it wasn't until the 1990s that the NCAA finally decided to attempt to register the trademark for March Madness. Unfortunately for the NCAA, the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) had been using the term March Madness in connection with its High School basketball tournaments since the late 30's. When the IHSA tried to register March Madness, the NCAA objected believing that it still had a common law trademark in the term. The 7th circuit ruled that March Madness had become a dual use mark so that both the NCAA and IHSA had rights to the mark.

In 2000 both the NCAA and IHSA created a limited liability company called "March Madness Athletic Association." The NCAA and IHSA both assigned all their rights to the mark to this company but retained an exclusive license to use March Madness in connection with their respective tournaments.

Well a topical trademark discussion and a great illustration of the importance of securing a federal trademark registration as soon as possible.

Categories: Trademark Law

Request a Free Case Evaluation

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.