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

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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

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 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.


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