How Boise State Protects its Trademark Blue Turf

Boise StateLast night, the discussion topic in my Sports Law class was trademark law in sports.  We primarily discussed Indianapolis
Colts, Inc. v. Metropolitan Baltimore Football Club Limited Partnership
, 34 F.3d 410 (7th Cir.  1994), which involved a trademark dispute between the Indianapolis Colts and the Baltimore CFL Colts
(back when the CFL had teams in the US).  At the end of class, the issue of Boise State’s blue turf field arose.

Boise State’s blue turf is a registered trademark.  In fact, the University of New Haven was forced to deal with Boise State a few years ago when it installed a blue turf football field.  I did a little Google research, and found a very interesting interview with Rachael Bickerton, Boise State’s director of trademark licensing and enforcement.  The interview was conducted by Chad Cripe of the Idaho Statesman.  Here’s an excerpt:

Q: Can you explain the trademark on the blue turf?

A: “We have a federal trademark registration for the color blue as it applies to artificial turf in a stadium. … We would argue that if you’re selling a T-shirt that says ‘blue turf,’ you’re clearly trying to trade off Boise State’s reputation.”

Q: What is the policy for other schools using blue turf?

A: “When we first went to federally trademark it, it was around the time another school, the University of New Haven, installed their blue field. We didn’t register the trademark with the intention of stopping other people. It was to protect something that Boise State and the state of Idaho had invested in. We feel, and I think most people agree, that the blue turf has become synonymous with our program like Georgia’s ‘between the hedges,’ Notre Dame’s Touchdown Jesus and Nike’s swoosh. We sought to formalize that trademark with a federal trademark registration in 2008. We worked with the University of New Haven and entered into a license, so effectively they could have their blue field and we were able to protect that trademark.”

Of note, Boise State does not charge a fee for a license, but seeks an agreement from other schools that the schools will not refer to their turf in a confusing manner.  Click here to read the article in its entirety.

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