Asma Raza

“Dribble,” NCAA trademarks cover a range of Final Four phrases

As the Final Four rolls into town next week, local businesses will need to be careful about using many familiar terms, as well as some less common sayings associated with a certain college basketball tournament.

The NCAA has a tight lock on March Madness terminology, with more than two dozen trademarks that cover a wide range of slogans, expressions and catchphrases related to the tournament.

The protections include the “Final Four,” “Elite Eight” and other well-known lingo. But they also extend to longer catchlines — like “68 TEAMS, ONE DREAM” and “And Then There Were Four” — as well as generic sports jargon, such as “The Big Dance.”

The NCAA goes so far as to trademark “Dribble,” though it appears to safeguard a free parade for kids hosted during the Final Four weekend, rather than all references to bouncing basketballs.

The NCAA said its trademarks are “carefully controlled” and “aggressively protected” — similar to the NFL’s notorious oversight of the Super Bowl and other trademarks.

Organizations like the NCAA use trademarks to shield their brand against imitators and unauthorized collaborators.

For the NCAA, it comes down to guarding its brand and ensuring the organization gets its share of licensing revenue from ticketing sales, merchandise and advertising, said Christopher Schulte, a Minneapolis trademark lawyer with intellectual property law firm Merchant and Gould.

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