Game Developer Agrees to Cease Usage of “April Madness” and “Final 3” in 2017
Game developer Kizzang LLC, accused by the NCAA of infringing on the Association’s “March Madness” Trademark, has agreed to cease use of similar marks for any of its basketball-themed games during 2017 — while the infringement suit proceeds in Indiana federal court.
As background, the NCAA — an avid defender of its “March Madness” mark — filed suit against Kizzang and its owner, Robert Alexander, less than a week before the annual commencement of its men’s basketball tournament. As previously reported, the NCAA’s complaint accused Kizzang’s online fantasy game “April Madness” of violating its mark. Also, the NCAA alleged Kizzang’s “Final 3” online bracket-predicting game infringed the NCAA’s “Final Four” trademark.
The NCAA’s complaint stated that it “partners with a select group of businesses committed to supporting the mission and core values of the NCAA. . . [o]nly authorized businesses are permitted to use the ‘Final Four’ and ‘March Madness’ marks.” The NCAA’s suit came after it filed an opposition at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2015 — in an attempt to block Kizzang from trademarking “April Madness” and “Final 3.”
The stipulation order, which Kizzang agreed to, prevents the company from using “April Madness” or “Final 3” this year in connection with any contest, promotion, or service. Also, through the order, the NCAA agreed to withdrew its motion for a preliminary injunction. However, the order stipulated that Kizzang will have until June 15 to answer the complaint.
The NCAA said it is “pleased that Kizzang and Mr. Alexander have agreed not to ambush the NCAA Tournament this year,” as this allows the NCAA “to litigate the merits of [its] claim and obtain judgment before March Madness begins in 2018.”
This is not the NCAA’s first lawsuit regarding its “March Madness” trademark. An Illinois High School originally coined the term for its yearly tournament, before CBS announcer, Ben Musburger, used it in the 1980s — when the NCAA began to slowly adopt the name for its tournament. Before the two groups eventually agreed to share the rights to the name, they were engaged in years of heated litigation.
Ever since, the NCAA has been incredibly proactive in the enforcement of those rights. In February, the NCAA filed a USPTO opposition against one of its own — the Big Ten Conference — when it attempted to register “March is on!” as a trademark, as the NCAA also claims “common law trademark rights to the ‘images of brackets and marks consisting of or referring to the term bracket.’”