If you happen on a tavern or restaurant this week offering special deals on food or drinks in connection with the NCAA men's or women's basketball tournaments, you're likely to find some hilariously twisted language on menus and banners, as local entrepreneurs attempt not to step on any of the NCAA's 35 trademarks associated with, um, March Madness®. If they do let a "Sweet 16®" or two slip, they'll be hearing from the association's attorneys, but quick.
March Madness® is actually one of the few to which the NCAA doesn't hold full rights - the Illinois High School Association famously went one on one with the bullies from the NCAA in court, trying to protect its rights to the phrase, which it had been using since the 1930s but hadn't attempted to trademark until the 1990s. (The IHSA in 1996 won in the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit against an NCAA licensee that actually legally owned the trademark - long story - leading to a dual-use trademark that IHSA and NCAA use for three shared phrases.)
The NCAA's list of marks now runs far afield, with both the official mascot of the tournaments (JJ Jumper®) and a youth event that takes place during the Women's Final Four® (the Circle City Dribble™) carrying their own registered marks. Some are so esoteric they defy classification. This writer's favorite? It's More Than Three Games™.
NCAA basketball trademarks (both genders):
And Then There Were Four®Elite Eight®Elite 8®F4®Final 4®Final Four Friday®Final Four®JJ Jumper®NCAA Basketball®NCAA Sweet 16®NCAA Sweet Sixteen®Road to the Final Four®Selection Sunday™The Final Four®The Road Ends Here®The Road to the Final Four®Division I men's basketball only:
68 Teams, One Dream™First Four®Men's Elite Eight® Men's Final 4™Men's Final Four™The Road to Houston™ Division I women's basketball only:
All day. Every day. Our game.®Circle City Dribble™It's More Than Three Games™Pinnacle of Fitness® Ring of Champions™The Pinnacle Awaits™The Road to Indianapolis™ Women's Elite Eight®Women's Final 4®Women's Final Four®Trademarks held jointly by IHSA and NCAA through March Madness Athletic Association LLC, an NCAA limited liability company:
March Madness®Middle School Madness®Midnight Madness®