Can any legal action be taken against my company if I advertise my merchandise as “NFL or SEC Inspired”?

UPDATED: Nov 20, 2013

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Can any legal action be taken against my company if I advertise my merchandise as “NFL or SEC Inspired”?

I recently opened a small apparel business which specializes in customizing sports fan apparel. All of my merchandise has my own logo and company name and does not show any similarities to any NFL or collegiate teams nor contain the names of any players or teams (logo’s, etc). However, it does have similar colors of the teams. I have read all of the IP information on how to avoid legal action from any protected teams but I am still unclear on one aspect of this topic. Although my merchandise has similar colors and is distinctly different with no trademarked info through the NFL and Collegiate teams.

Asked on November 20, 2013 under Business Law, Louisiana


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If the overall "look and feel" of your merchandise is such that a reasonable buyer/customer might think that it was licensed by the NFL or SEC, then you may be infringing on their trade dress, and so violating their IP; if not, you would be fine. There is no hard and fast rule--it is a subjective judgment call. You are advised to consult with an intellectual property attorney who can evaluate your merchandise in detail to see if he or she thinks there is a reasonable likelihood that you are infringing.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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