The owl of the Superb Owl Night Run with co-organizers Tricia Schafer (left) and Johnny Lookabaugh (right).

The owl of the Superb Owl Night Run with co-organizers Tricia Schafer (left) and Johnny Lookabaugh (right).

You may recall how back in January I predicted a particular legal outcome. A recent contrary result demonstrates why writing rather than lawyer-predicting was a better career course-correction for me.

Back in January, I chuckled over an annual fundraising race called the Superb Owl. Hosted around the time of the Super Bowl, the organizers—and I—thought the charming diction would help the Owl fly beneath the radar of The Big Game’s organizers.

Owls aren't the only wise creature when it comes to avoiding trademark trouble. A lawyers group avoids Super Bowl with their Superb Owl 5K.

Superb? Yes? Super? That question is headed toward litigation.

No so fast.

As we see in last week’s story, the NFL has filed a trademark objection about the race, co-organized by attorney Tricia Schafer. The race is a 5K called the Superb Owl Shuffle. But the website is named www.superbowlshuffle.org. So you see the problem.

As the Superb Owl would probably say, Who who who would have guessed the NFL would be prickly about its trademarks? Who would have predicted that such a smile-inducing name would ruffle feathers?

Not this guy, clearly. Happy running.

The Big Game? What are they getting at? The World Cup?

The Big Game? What are they getting at? The World Cup?

This weekend, that big football event we’ve come to call the Super Bowl occurs. But this time of year we get to enjoy the timidity of advertisers, who tremble at the thought of using the “SB” term itself.

As a result, we are inundated with inane ads that trumpet “The Big Game” or some permutation of that milquetoast label.

The Super Bowl organizers and their attorneys guard that name carefully, as they should. But when the use is entirely peripheral to the game, and when advertisers mention the game not to confuse consumers but to offer products and services that would improve the game experience, they believe they cannot utter “Super Bowl”? Gimme a break!

That kind of circumscribed thinking made me chuckle as I gazed at the accumulation of ads that came in this week’s Arizona Republic. In this case, it was supermarkets who studiously avoided the term. Bizarro world.

Extending that “thinking,” I guess we should say that “This year’s Big Game is between a team from Denver and another from Seattle.” Wary of uttering “Seahawks” or “Broncos,” that’s all we should say.

The disappearing Super Bowl, via the timidity of advertisers.

The disappearing Super Bowl, via the timidity of advertisers.

To add a little legal thinking to my irritation, turn to this story echoing how ridiculous the fear is.

Here, the author quotes another on the harm we do to fair-use concepts when we surrender those rights without true understanding:

“In their recent book Reclaiming Fair Use, Pat Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi warn that when we refrain from exercising our fair use rights, and act as if those rights do not exist, we help create a culture in which fair use loses ground to overly aggressive copyright enforcement. The same is true in the trademark realm. We can only hope that when the next Superbowl rolls around, the Times and its brethren, and even the HDTV sellers, will have shed their timidity.”

A hat tip to the eagle-eyed Kathy Nakagawa who spotted this wonderful issue that intersects sports and intellectual property.