Put NFL MLB NCAA Team Logos on T-Shirts
Dear Business Guy, I want to put logos of NFL teams on T-Shirts and other products using silk screening. Can I do this? They say that they have a copyright on the broadcast games, but do they have a patient on all of the team names or just the official Jerseys?
Thanks for asking. Assuming that you have read our TOS and understand that this does not constitute legal advice, the answer is yes and no. Yes you can put whatever you want on a t-shirt or jersey, but if you use someone’s trademark with out their permission this is illegal. And you could get prosecuted by the DA and have to pay damages to the team’s owners. Yes, you see a lot of shirts being sold for like 10 bucks around, those are generally made illegally without getting permission from the logo owners. And they can get away with it because the guys selling the shirts only make a couple of bucks and are generally too poor to pay any judgement. The guys who designed the shirts are long gone before they go on sale.
While you may consider it no big deal, the law looks at it like steeling because the logos and use of the logos are private property. Using them without permission is kind-of like steeling someone’s bike. For more information on trademarks and copyrights, see this page, and for more information about the T-shirt business check out this page. For instance you could have a general things like “I ♥ Football” “Take me out to the Baseball game” or make up your own team names. That sounds great, but not too many people want to buy a T-shirt that with such general slogans on it. They want to show they are fans of the Dodgers, Angeles, or Raiders. But you cannot use team names or logos without permission of their owners.
National Football League Licensing
That said, it is possible to use NFL trademarks, it just may be impractical if you want to do a small amount of products. The NFL also grants permission to use individual team names/logos. Check out the NFL’s licensing website nfl.biz . It seems like they want to deal with larger manufacturers and distributors. You need to guarantee at least a $100,000/year royalty to the NFL, and have at least a 6M/12M liability policy to protect the NFL against lawsuits arising from your products. You will also have to prove to them that you have the financial resources to meet these requirements.
They also review your products to insure that it does not have a negative impact on the NFL’s image. i.e. no cheep products or pornographic products. Although they do not state this on their website/application, they probably will not let you produce a product that is already being produces as the resulting price competition would reduce the value of an NFL license. If you have a unique product that is not NFL branded, you might want to run it by their new products department before you fill out the application. New Products Division, NFL Properties LLC, 345 Park Avenue, New York, New York 10154 newproducts@NFL.com
Major League Baseball Licensing
For licensing, the MLB has provided this contact on their website firstname.lastname@example.org From what we understand, it’s very similar to the NFL system. Some people on the internet have said that the the minimum royalty is $40,000. We could not find out any other information on line. We did note that in the MLB, players have licensing rights to their likeness, team number, and name. You can inquire about using a player’s trademarks from the player’s association here: http://mlb.mlb.com/pa/info/licensing.jsp This is where you would get permission to use a player’s picture on your product.
Another group of logos that are in demand are the logos to universities. Virtually all universities belong to the National Collegiate Athletic Association which helps schools cash in on their athletic programs. Each school retains the right to use and marked their own names and logos, but most schools they license their use through the the Collegiate Licensing Company . They license most of the big schools, bowl games… including Arizona State, University of Arizona, UCLA, and SDSU. We did note that the other big school, USC was missing from their client list.
USC runs its own Trademark office trademarks.usc.edu
As with MLB and NFL licensing, you need to demonstrate that you have a high quality product, that you have insurance to protect the institution against liability claims, you have to pay a licensing fee in advance, and you have the financial where with all to pay future royalty fees. But this is done on a school by school basis.
Yes, the counterfeit police will get you
The leagues actually hire investigators to go out to malls, swapmeets and even internet sites hunting down evil merchants selling fake merchandise. The way they look at it is that selling fake goods takes away jobs from Americans–even though a lot of the real stuff comes from China anyway. But the deal is the NFL and other leagues have friends in high places, and selling fake stuff is taking money out of their pockets. If it’s imported or goes across state lines, it’s a federal crime.
This video was produced by HomeLand Security, and in this video they explain that they are very serious. ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has HSI Police (And HSI stands for Homeland Security Investigations) that go after sellers and seize inventory. They are helped the the leagues PI’s, and as you can see they have become experts in determining what is real and what’s not. In addition to taking your inventory you could get arrested (in this Video from New Jersey discusses a guy who got fake NFL jerseys from China and sold them through the mail.) with a crime and civil lawsuits could be filed against you by the owner of the trademark you are copying.
So the bottom line is that it’s not a good idea to make or or sell fake stuff.
Reader Question I attend a University in Los Angeles that’s supposed to be a public university. Can my school sue me for using their name? I am paying a lot of money in tuition; and it’s owned by the public.
A Although we are not attorneys, we believe they could sue you for using their trademark. And our guess is that they might if you sell anything with their trademark (link). Even Though they are owned by the public and are a non-profit doesn’t mean that they will permit you to make money from what they consider their property– the UCLA trademark. If you are using their trademark for to discuss policy we would think you could use it. For instance, if you made a sign that said UCLA is Unfair, UCLA costs too much … It’s not a cut and dry thing.
They are with the CLC licensing program, see above. You can submit an application through the CLC. (see above)