The Major League Baseball (MLB) championship games have started and will culminate with the World Series which starts on October 25, 2016. Your station may want to be involved in promotions that are tied to the baseball championships. These promotions can be successful, but can also present serious legal issues if MLB’s intellectual property rights are not respected.
Use of MLB Trademarks
MLB licenses its protected trademarks, symbols, and terminology to third parties for substantial fees, and it strictly limits the use of these marks only to authorized parties. MLB strongly protects its marks and will take legal action to prevent their unauthorized use. Activities and promotions that give the appearance of a relationship between MLB, the championship games, and your station or your advertisers, are extremely risky and even unlawful. Activities like unlicensed use of MLB’s marks in connection with the sale or promotion of products or services offered through your station can expose you and your advertisers to claims of trademark infringement, unfair competition, false advertising, and misappropriation of goodwill. The use of a disclaimer like “not an official sponsor of the World Series” usually provides no protection.
MLB owns the exclusive right to its marks, which include “World Series,” “MLB,” and any team name or nickname (such as “Washington Nationals” or “Nats”), as well as related symbols, designations, and logos. Without permission from MLB, you cannot say or print any of these protected marks or logos in station marketing or promotions. These marks include, but are not limited to, the following:
You may, however, say or print the following:
Unauthorized Distribution of Championship Game Tickets
MLB and its authorized agents are the only legal sources for distribution of tickets. Your station may not conduct a promotion giving away tickets to the MLB championship games, even if your station validly purchased the tickets. The only exceptions to this general rule are if your station conducts a promotion with an official sponsor that has written permission from MLB to conduct the promotion, or if MLB provides written permission directly to your station.
News Reporting on the Championship Games and World Series
MLB holds property rights in the accounts and descriptions of the championship games and surrounding events, and licenses their broadcast rights. Unless your station has obtained official press credentials, you are not permitted to report on the championship games from the venue while the event is taking place. After the event has ended, you can report the “news” of the event, such as the winner and the score of the game.
MLB has the right to charge a fee for use of game and event highlights. Your station needs to obtain consent from MLB or the local rights holder prior to the use of any highlights in your station’s newscasts.
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If you have any questions regarding the legality of broadcasts or marketing promotions relating to MLB championship games, please contact any attorney in our office.