Innovative Patent & Intellectual Property Attorneys

Row the Boat and Ski-U-Mah – Trademarks, Copyrights, Tee-shirts, and Licensing (Part 2)

| Nov 9, 2020 | Intellectual Property

Our last post discussed the licensing issues surrounding Coach Fleck and the University of Minnesota’s use of the “Row the Boat” slogan. However, licensing is not limited to universities. The National Football League also has licensing rights with regards to NFL Apparel sold to fans.

Why do I have to purchase officially licensed NFL Apparel at team stores?

NFL fans in Minnesota may wonder why they have to buy official jerseys at team stores rather than from markets in other countries at a lower cost. This is because the NFL has licensing rights to team apparel and thus can determine who sells it. The sale of officially licensed professional sports merchandise is a billion-dollar industry, so it is important to know where that money is going.

If a clothing manufacture wants to sell officially licensed NFL merchandise, they must pay a licensing fee to the NFL. Around 11% to 15% of these sales go to the NFL, will then be shared equally among NFL teams. The remaining profits go to the manufacturer of the merchandise. If a jersey sold has a player’s name on it, the player will also get a small portion of the profits from the sale.

Who owns official licenses to NFL Apparel?

The NFL owns licenses to the NFL trademark. NFL Properties represents the merchandising and licensing interests of both the NFL trademark and all teams that belong to the NFL. Thus, the NFLP is the entity responsible for approving licensee proposals submitted by businesses wishing to sell NFL apparel. Licensees are permitted to sell goods utilizing the NFL trademark if they qualify.

NFL licensing can be as complex as University licensing

As this shows, licensing issues are not limited to universities. Professional sports organizations like the NFL also have licensing rights. A future post on this blog will address how the “Row the Boat” intellectual property issues were resolved.


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