Los Angeles – The NCAA is finally the exclusive owner of the now famous March Madness trademark. March Madness refers to the annual college basketball tournament which ultimately crowns college basketball’s national champion.
The March Madness term was first used in a 1939 magazine article by Henry V. Porter, an executive secretary for the Illinois High School Association, to describe the Illinois state basketball championship. By the 1980s, the term was used by Intersport CEO Charles Besser for the title of a TV show he produced about the NCAA tournament. In March of 1989, Besser filed a MARCH MADNESS U.S. Trademark Application for “entertainment services, namely, presentation of athletic and entertainment personalities in a panel forum.” Thereafter years of disputes waged on between Intersport and the NCAA over rights to the trademark.
Finally last October, the NCAA reportedly paid $17.2 million to Intersport to stop all use of the term which has also been used by the NCAA’s men’s basketball tournament since the 1980s. The settlement gives the NCAA sole ownership of the trademark for the first time. For a time Intersport, the NCAA, and the Illinois High School Association were all using the trademark but the Illinois High School Association since became a licensee of the NCAA for use of the term in connection with high school basketball.
As a result of the settlement, the NCAA will now have an enhanced ability to police the trademark by telling others to cease use. As such, the trademark is much more valuable. Considering the ever-increasing value of the March Madness tournament television rights fees, the settlement appears to be a win-win for both Intersport and the NCAA.