Intellectual Property and College Football

For over a decade, college football discussed the idea of having a playoff system which finally came true this year, but it was not without controversy. I’m not talking about bad calls and questionable plays. What I’m talking about is the behind the scenes legal issues.

First, it doesn’t take the best patent search attorney to find a patent filed in 2000 for a playoff system (patent US6053823 A). Like most patents, it’s a stupid one clearly designed to cash in on someone else who plans on using it. Playoffs have been in sports long before the patent was even issued, which makes me question how the patent was even granted.

In 2010, there were warnings about potential patent infringement on 3 patents, all which vaguely resembled a playoff system for college football. None of those seemed to matter, and the BCS went ahead with their plans.

The legal issue now is the property holder of BCS, creatively named BCS Properties, LLC was not granted a trademark on the phrase “College Football Playoff.” The trademark was denied on the grounds of it being the description of the games and not the name.

The USPTO was more lenient on the trademark for merchandise, allowing those to go through, but those were objected to by a Nevada company who claims the phrase should also be considered descriptive, even when on merchandise.

The final trademark decision was not settled at the time the games were played.

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