Football season is already in full swing, and you might be ready to start making personalized gear to show support for your favorite team (go Bears!). Or, you may see listings online for gorgeous handmade items with NFL logos or team names. Before you start making and selling NFL products, you should know that it may not be okay for you to do so.
Today on Cutting for Business, I’m going to answer this question: “Can I make and sell NFL items?”
My answer: “No, you can only make NFL items if you are licensed by the NFL to do so.”
Follow-up question: “How are handmade product sellers on Etsy doing it?”
My answer: “Illegally.”
What is trademarked to the NFL?
The NFL explicitly states these items are trademarked:
“The NFL Marks include, among others, the NFL shield, the words SUPER BOWL and PRO BOWL, the Super Bowl and Pro Bowl logos, and the team names, nicknames, colors, symbols, emblems, helmet designs and uniform designs.” (Source: NFL.com)
Unfortunately for crafters, the NFL does not offer hobbyist or small business licensing. The NFL has several criteria that must be met before a license is issued. These include:
- You must have 3 years of business experience.
- You must be the manufacturer.
- You must prepay a royalty guarantee (approximately $100,000).
- You must carry commercial insurance policies in the amounts of $6 million and $12 million in liabilities.
- You must submit the pre-qualification application with business, banking, and tax return information.
- You must attach annual reports, product catalogs, and credit references when submitting your application.
Ok, so I’ve showed you that the average Silhouette or Cricut small business crafter cannot possibly afford to get licensed with the NFL. This doesn’t mean that you can’t sell items geared towards your favorite team.
Ideas and Guidelines for Creating Football Related Products for Sale
- Use general sayings or designs. For example: words like “football”, a football design, the silhouette of a football player, or a goal post design would be okay to use.
- Do not use the team name or NFL names in your design, listing, or description.
- Football related sayings like “Football Mom”, “Keep Calm and Tackle Hard”, and “Eat, Sleep, Play Football” are all okay to use.
- Football shaped monograms or swirly/embellished football designs are okay to use.
- You can use player numbers, but don’t mention the player, in your design. The NFL has no way to file against you for solely using a player number.
- Using patterned or other printed vinyls can add interest to “boring” designs.
What if You Don’t Want to Get Licensed?
If you don’t want to get licensed and still want to sell NFL items, you should know that if you are caught by the trademark holder (the NFL), your store or shop can be shut down. Additionally, you can be forced to pay back all monies made from the items, your supplies could be confiscated, and you can be prosecuted for trademark/copyright infringement. Unfortunately for small sellers, big corporations have far more resources to legally pursue you and you will not win the battle. It’s worth noting that the NFL is active on Etsy and listings that infringe their trademarks are regularly removed.
I talk a lot about copyrights and trademarks on Cutting for Business because it is a huge issue in creating and selling products. Wondering about collegiate licensing? Head to this post.
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