A prescient move by an Indiana man to trademark “Harbowl” and “Harbaugh Bowl” turned into the league intimidating him until he gave up the quest, ESPN.com reported.
According to ESPN.com, Roy Fox said he had the idea last season to trademark the terms, which he figured could pay off if the coaches met in the Super Bowl. That happened this season, when Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers and John Harbaugh’s Ravens advanced to the Super Bowl, which will be played on Feb. 3.
But Fox didn’t have his trademarks, after he said the NFL pressured him to give them up.
Fox told ESPN.com he spent more than $1,000 to trademark the terms, but the NFL got in touch with him and told him the trademarks could be confused with its own trademark of “Super Bowl.”
“There were two questions asked of him,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said to ESPN.com. “Was he affiliated with any NFL teams? The answer was no. And was he in any way affiliated with the Harbaugh brothers? And that answer was no.”
The ESPN.com story said Fox requested that the league reimburse him the costs to file the trademark. After that failed, he asked for two Colts season tickets and an autographed picture of commissioner Roger Goodell. All of his requests were shot down, ESPN.com said. Fox said he backed off when the language to him got more threatening, including the league claiming it would oppose his filing and seek to have Fox pay its legal fees.
The story says the NFL hasn’t trademarked anything related to the matchup of the coaching brothers.
The NFL, like any massive business, is within its rights to protect its trademarks, but this story might make it look like the league was pushing around a little guy who had what turned out to be a pretty good idea.