People at businesses such as financial or technical services firms can use social media to discuss the Super Bowl and its advertisements or run contests, he adds, because "right now social media is still considered media in that it's protected by the First Amendment. Right now it's a way to promote [your firm] without running afoul of the trademark laws."
"We have [clients] go on and talk about the Super Bowl commercials. They are actually talking about the Super Bowl but not tied in to [their own] advertising," Johnson says.
When crafting the goCharge promotion, King says, he did not contact the NFL for permission.
"We didn't think we were saying anything controversial or untrue. We're basically saying we're going to be there for you at the Super Bowl," he says.
And that may be the best lesson goCharge can provide: For any event, business or known trademark such as "Super Bowl," think about what you're doing before you do it.
"Use common sense. Think about what the NFL's interests are and see how others creatively get around using the brand names of the NFL. It is entirely possible to have a promotion that fairly clearly references the Super Bowl but doesn't step on the NFL's toes," Pelton says. "Basically the easiest thing to do is to avoid using team names, team logos and the phrase 'The Super Bowl' and any other trademarks that are protected."
An NFL spokeswoman did not respond to an email sent by
. A representative of AT&T did not respond to a request for comment by email.
-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.
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