NCAA Hopes for Slam Dunk in Trademark Infringement Suit
The NCAA, on November 13, 2017, asked for a default judgment and a permanent injunction against Kizzang LLC and its owner, Robert Alexander, for alleged trademark infringement of “March Madness” and “Final Four.” A judge had issued a stipulated order back in March under which Alexander and Kizzang agreed not to use “April Madness” or “Final 3” in its online fantasy games.
The suit was originally filed in March 2017, less than a week before the NCAA’s annual Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. It was filed after the NCAA had opposed Kizzang’s attempt to get its own trademark registration on “April Madness” in February 2015. After an extension was granted for Alexander and Kizzang to answer the complaint, the NCAA moved for default in July, when the revised deadline passed. U.S. District Judge Magus-Stinson granted the default on Nov. 7, 2017 and denied Alexander and Kazzang’s motion to dismiss in the same order.
“Defendants selected these marks because of their similarity to the NCAA’s Final Four and March Madness marks, and with the intention of exploiting the goodwill associated with the NCAA’s marks,” the NCAA said. It also argued that Alexander and Kizzang’s use of the allegedly infringing games caused trademark dilution by creating an association between the products and the NCAA without authorization. The NCAA contended that it has proven irreparable harm based on a threat to its goodwill, as there is an imminent possibility that the NCAA will be damaged if Alexander and Kizzang are allowed to roll out their products using the names Final 3 and April Madness. The NCAA also said that it has no other remedy available to it, as monetary damages or other compensation will not prevent injury.
The NCAA has garnered a reputation as a particularly aggressive trademark litigant when it comes to its signature event. It also claims common law trademark rights to the “images of brackets and marks consisting of or referring to the term ‘bracket.’”