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Can the phrase "College Football Playoff" be trademarked?

posted Jan 2, 2015, 5:04 PM by Edmund Xie   [ updated Jan 4, 2015, 4:56 PM ]
Yesterday was New Year's Day. I watched the inaugural College Football Playoff semifinal game between Ohio State (from which I received a Ph.D.) and Alabama. Ohio State beat the top-ranked Alabama, 42-35.

Today I did a search in the United States Patent and Trademark Office's Trademarks Database. It turns out that an entity called BCS Properties, LLC filed a US trademark application for the word mark "College Football Playoff" back in March 2013, based on intent-to-use in association with, inter alia, "entertainment services in the nature of television and radio sports programs featuring college football games, exhibitions and tournaments". The application is pending and has been refused by the trademark examining attorney at the USPTO. According to the last Office Action issued by the trademark examining attorney, registration for the word mark "College Football Playoff" was refused under Trademark Act Section 2(e)(1), because the subject matter for which registration is sought is merely descriptive of the identified services. 

Under US Trademark Act (i.e. Lanham Act) Section 2(e)(1), an application for registration of a trademark on the principle register can be refused if the trademark, when used in connection with the goods or services, is merely descriptive (or deceptively misdescriptive) of them.

The Office Action by the USPTO trademark examining attorney was issued in August 2014.  Given the popularity of the inaugural College Football Playoff games (ESPN reported that more than 28 million people watched the Ohio State-Alabama game), it will be interesting to see if the applicant of this trademark application could come up with some creative arguments to persuade the USPTO trademark examining attorney that the word mark "College Football Playoff" is either not merely descriptive, or has acquired "distinctiveness" under Trademark Act Section 2(f).