NCAA Tries To Limit Use Of 'March Madness' While the nation revels in March Madness, the NCAA's lawyers are trying to prevent anyone else from using the phrases "March Madness" or "Final Four." Doug Masters, an outside counsel for the NCAA and partner with the law firm Loeb & Loeb, offers his insight.

NCAA Tries To Limit Use Of 'March Madness'

NCAA Tries To Limit Use Of 'March Madness'

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While the nation revels in March Madness, the NCAA's lawyers are trying to prevent anyone else from using the phrases "March Madness" or "Final Four." Doug Masters, an outside counsel for the NCAA and partner with the law firm Loeb & Loeb, offers his insight.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris. It's the peak of March Madness, in April. Much of the country is in the throws of a full throttle basketball obsession. But a small team of lawyers is engaged in another kind of frenzy, a seasonal malady that could be called the cease and desist affliction. These lawyers work to protect NCAA trademarks. They're trying to prevent anyone else from using phrases like March Madness or Final Four in any kind of promotional materials. Doug Masters is part of that legal team. He's a partner with the firm Loeb & Loeb. He says the NCAA and others are on the lookout for violators.

Mr. DOUG MASTERS (Attorney, Loeb & Loeb): Often, it comes to the attention of the NCAA by one of its representatives either at a school or one of the corporate partners that it works with officially to promote the tournament.

NORRIS: Oh, so there's not tattletales out there in the country, letting people know that someone's using your name and they shouldn't be doing that.

Mr. MASTERS: Yeah.

NORRIS: There are tattletales?

Mr. MASTERS: Well, you know, people who have an interest either because they're members of the NCAA schools, or because they are corporate partners of the NCAA, are attentive to what's going on in connection with the tournament, and don't hesitate to bring things to the office's attention when they have a concern.

NORRIS: And Mr. Masters, just so we're clear here, what phrases, logos, monikers are actually off limits?

Mr. MASTERS: Well, of course, NCAA, March Madness, Final Four are registered trademarks. Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, also registered trademarks. And then there's…

NORRIS: Sweet Sixteen?

Mr. MASTERS: Sweet Sixteen, yes, is registered.

NORRIS: There's a whole slew of greeting cards that might run afoul of this.

Mr. MASTERS: It only applies to uses in connection with sporting events, so it's not for somebody's daughter's…

NORRIS: So those Sweet Sixteen basketball parties.

Mr. MASTERS: …coming of age. Right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MASTERS: And then there's, associated phrases, you know, road to the Final Four, the Big Dance, and a variety of other kind of nicknames and marks associated with the event.

NORRIS: So what kind of violations are you talking about, companies that offer spring break, March Madness drink specials, or even people who run Internet brackets that might be emblazoned with the words Final Four across the top.

Mr. MASTERS: Yeah, it's a range of things, and really the more commercial it is, the more of a concern that it is. So when we see ticket promotions, those are unauthorized, only official corporate partners of the NCAA get to give tickets away. You know, for the first time this year, because of the new media landscape we've had concerns in the form of iPhone applications, Twitter monikers. You know, this really covers a real range of, you know, brick and mortar, all the way to the new media type of issues.

NORRIS: I understand that you even had to go after NASA. You really went after the space agency?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MASTERS: Yes, this year, they offered a Mission Madness promotion, complete with basketballs and a bracket that looked like the NCAA bracket. And that was brought to our attention, and we wrote them a letter.

NORRIS: Whatever happened to the old idea that there's no such thing as bad publicity, that all publicity is good publicity, that it brings more people to the table, or the (unintelligible).

Mr. MASTERS: You know, and that's a principle that does inform how we conduct our enforcement. You have to realize that some of your strongest fans are also people who may go over the line. So, you know, we are judicious, I think, in deciding which problems really need attention and which ones don't, and we try not to, you know, to kill the golden goose. You don't want to turn people off to the tournament and be too heavy handed.

NORRIS: Doug Masters, good to talk to you, thank you very much.

Mr. MASTERS: Thank you, Michele.

NORRIS: Doug Masters is part of the National Collegiate Athletic Association legal team. He's a partner with the firm Loeb & Loeb.

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