Meet Roy Fox.
An ordinary football fan, Roy watched the playoffs last year and when realizing the possibility of a San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens game, decided to trademark "Harbowl" and "Harbaughbowl", writes Timothy P. Carney with the Washington Examiner. Roy wanted to print "Harbowl" on shirts and hats to make a little side money.
That's when an army of lawyers employed by the NFL raised an eyebrow.
Mr. Fox, figuring last year that the Harbowl might happen some day, signed up with the online legal services business Legal Zoom, and went through the process of applying for a trademark on both Harbowl and Harbaughbowl.
The USPTO processed Fox’s trademark application in February. In July, the PTO published the trademark request, as is standard, in order to see if anyone opposed it.
Resistance came from the NFL, famous for its zealous protection of its trademarks and its content. (Notice how many ads refer to "the big game" because they haven’t paid the NFL for the right to say "Super Bowl.)
The NFL decided to bully Roy out of the copyright because the league was worried that a tee-shirt with the name "Harbowl" would trick customers into believing they were "buying official NFL merchandise."
Over the course of August, NFL lawyers pushed Mr. Fox to abandon his trademark application. Mr. Fox didn’t want to abandon it. So the NFL pushed harder.
"If you are still interested in resolving this matter amicably and abandoning your trademark application, please contact me as soon as possible," NFL Assistant Counsel Delores DiBella wrote to Mr. Fox in October. She warned that otherwise, the NFL "will be forced to file an opposition proceeding and to seek the recoupment of our costs from you."
"I was threatened to be taken to court," Fox told me, "and I just assumed I would lose, and I couldn’t afford the court costs."
Mr. Fox is not a businessman or a lawyer. He says, "I didn’t know my rights." He didn’t want to fight a costly legal battle with the NFL, and so he made a humble request: he would abandon his trademark in exchange for some Colts tickets. The NFL said no, according to Mr. Fox.
The nasty side of the NFL.