“The Dream Team” – A Case of Trademark Infringement [NBA Vs Nigeria U 23 National Football Team]

The U.S. Men Basketball team and the Nigeria Men Football team will be participating at the Rio Olympic Games this summer, with both team bearing the name: “The Dream Team.”

It may be a case of Trademark Infringement, if National Basketball Association (NBA) in-charge of the U.S. team, go ahead to seek for an injunction restraining Nigeria U23 National Football team from using the name?

It is a legal aspect of sport marketing and a major course of study in our TURN 360° football Business Incubator Program. I recommend you enroll for this program. It’ll expand your knowledge base and add so much value tp your personal brand, that’s if you  are already working or aspiring to work as a football professional or a business person in Nigeria,

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Having said that, let’s go on to define what a Trademark is and then, what will constitute a trademark infringement – to find out if NBA will have a case in the Law Court.

A Trademark is a word, name, symbol or device used by a person, merchant or sport organization to identify and distinguish it’s product and service from those manufactured and sold by others.

In 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the NBA named the U.S. Men Basketball “The Dream Team,” after many considered the team as the greatest ever assembled in any sport… Magic Johnson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan, were as ecstatic as the dream team’s victories were emphatic and overran other teams  to win men basketball Gold Medal…

In 1996, Nigeria assembled a similar team at the Atlanta Olympics men soccer event… relatively unknown players with deft-magicking touches… Austin Jay-Jay Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu, Daniel Amokachi, Victor Ikpeba… went on to defeat the star studed Brazil and Argentine teams to clinch the olympic Gold Medal – that team also adopted the name “The Dream Team.”

Now going to Rio Olympics in Brazil, students currently in the TURN360° football business mentoring class want to find out if this brand name mix-up would not bring about confusion to consumers and constitute a trademark infringement to the original team, the U.S. Men Basketball team.

The Lanham Trademark Act Protects Sports Businesses and organizations from their intellectual property infringement. The Act is a federal law in the U.S.  requiring that a Trademark be registered in order to be protected by the Act.

But internationally, Trademarks are protected as part of the common law of unfair competition,  and often registration is not required. Thus, Federal Registration of a name is not always required in order to establish rights in a trademark.

Trademark infringement is defined as the reproduction, counterfeiting, copying or imitation of a well known trademark registered or unregistered. It is usually established where there’s a simple proof that the infringing party will cause likelihood of confusion to the consuming public.

Can NBA proof that “The Dream Team” is a distinctive trademark of the U.S. Men Basketball team? Well, I guess their argument will be very weak.

First, NBA didn’t register the trademark in compliance with the Lanham protection act.

Second, “The Dream Team” isn’t the intellectual property of NBA. It was actually culled from a film produced in 1989, starring Michael Keaton, Christopher Lloyd, Peter Boyle and Stephen Furst’s Baseball rout at the Yankee Stadium.

The U.S. Men Basketball team only adopted it as a nickname in 1992. So any other team is at liberty to also adopt the name if they  so wish, without infringing on any right of NBA.

Moreover, the U.S. Men Basketball team and Nigeria U23 football team do not play in the same sport, so there is no confusion at all, even in merchandise sales or advertorial adoptions… The audience and customers are exclusively different.

As a professional or a football business person, you should fully understand the legal aspect of sport business and how it applies in different cases.

This is the reason I recommend the Football Business mentoring program [TURN360° Football Business Incubator]…. Click here to fill a short form, indicting your interest.

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