The National Collegiate Athletic Association ("NCAA") has had a lot of legal press in the last few years. From the controversies over whether student athletes should be paid, to the likenesses of student athletes no longer being used in video games such as the now-defunct NCAA Football series, the NCAA is no stranger to legal proceedings. One of the NCAA's most notable trademarks is "March Madness," referring to the annual Division 1 basketball tournament culminating in the crowning of a national champion.
Last Friday, Law360 reported that the NCAA had filed an opposition to an application for the mark "March Is On!" by the Big Ten Conference. The Big Ten Conference, who counts among its members national powerhouses such as Ohio State University and the University of Michigan, applied to use the mark for services relating to live sports, such as "production and distribution of television programs relating to sports and sports entertainment." The application was an "intent to use" application, meaning the mark had not yet been used in commerce. However, there does appear to be evidence that the Big Ten has used it occasionally to promote its conference basketball tournament in previous years.
This is actually a standard part of obtaining a trademark registration - once a mark has been approved by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, it is published in a weekly publication called the Official Gazette. After this publication, the public has thirty days to file an opposition. In this case, the NCAA filed an opposition, meaning it thinks the Big Ten's "March Is On!" mark would be confusingly similar to its own "March Madness" mark. The NCAA's opposition does not necessarily mean that the Big Ten will not receive its trademark. The next step will be an opposition before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.