NFL bullies man for trademarking ‘Harbowl’


One aspiring entrepreneur took a risk, thinking one day the Harbaugh brothers would meet in the Super Bowl. He trademarked, ‘Harbowl’ and filed the necessary paperwork with the U.S. Patent Office. Then the NFL came along to object and Roy Fox’s dream of making a few bucks vanished.

Here’s a brief excerpt from his story:

Mr. Fox, figuring last year that the Harbowl might happen some day, signed up with the online legal services business Legal Zoom, and went through the process of applying for a trademark on both Harbowl and Harbaughbowl.

…the NFL wrote Mr. Fox, saying “We are concerned that, because our mark” that is, the words Super Bowl, “and your applied-for marks are similar, it may cause the public to mistakenly believe that your goods and/or services are authorized or sponsored by or are somehow affiliated with the NFL or its Member Clubs.”

Fair point. Perhaps an amicable solution can be reached?

Over the course of August, NFL lawyers pushed Mr. Fox to abandon his trademark application. Mr. Fox didn’t want to abandon it. So the NFL pushed harder.

“If you are still interested in resolving this matter amicably and abandoning your trademark application, please contact me as soon as possible,” NFL Assistant Counsel Delores DiBella wrote to Mr. Fox in October. She warned that otherwise, the NFL “will be forced to file an opposition proceeding and to seek the recoupment of our costs from you.”

“I was threatened to be taken to court,” Fox told me, “and I just assumed I would lose, and I couldn’t afford the court costs.”

As you can probably tell, Fox gave up the trademark (with some assistance from the NFL) without ever consulting a lawyer and the NFL got their ‘Harbowl’ a few months later. I sincerely hope we get a bullying documentary out of this.