Trademarks: Can You Sell NFL Items Made with Your Silhouette Cameo?

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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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Trademarks: Can You Sell NFL Items Made with Your Silhouette Cameo or Cricut? - by cuttingforbusiness.com

74 thoughts on “Trademarks: Can You Sell NFL Items Made with Your Silhouette Cameo?”

    1. Hi Jen! In some cases this might be okay, HOWEVER if a customer could think that the product that you made was endorsed by the trademark holder – they’d have a good case to fight you on. Honestly, a large company’s legal team is always going to be larger than yours. I’d probably skip it. Hope that helps! Christine

  1. Do u know if a Silloutte of the lambardi trophy (the super bowl trophy) is copyrighted? If it is just the shape it wouldn t have the shield or anything seen on it just the shape of it?

  2. Am I right in assuming that you can in fact still use NFL logos if it is not for profit? That seems to be the normal “get around” for such things. Such as; you include the design for free, only charge the customer for whatever the “blank” item was. Or if you are making it strictly for personal use. That is how I have had it described to me in the past!

  3. What would say about this scenario…

    My wife wants to make Seahawk “inspired” jewelry such as earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. We believe she can get away with all sort of beads in the matching color scheme. However, there a ton of Seattle Seahawks charms available at local craft stores such as Hobby Lobby, Ben Franklin, Michaels, and Jo Anns. It is our assumption that companies such as these (larger retail outlets) have already gone through the legality of importing these charms, and therefore the NFL has already earned their royalties for the original retail sale of the items. If we purchase these charms at a retail location at retail prices, can the NFL have an issue if we take those charms and build them into a pair of custom earrings and sell them as “Seahawk inspired” earrings?

    What about including a disclaimer on all literature specifying that it is in no way endorsed by, or affiliated with, the NFL or any of its partners.?

    1. Hello! Color coordinating sounds like a good idea. As for the findings, the manufacturer has gotten rights to produce the item, but that license doesn’t transfer to you – the end user. You’d need to reach out to the manufacturer to clarify whether you can legally use in resale. Also, check the packaging – it may say. Seahawk is likely trademarked – you’ll have to look that up. Disclaimers are useless: https://cuttingforbusiness.com/2015/08/19/copyright-and-trademark-disclaimer/

      1. Hello,

        For those interested in selling collegiate teams, check with each university to see if they offer a crafter’s license program. It much more affordable!

  4. Hi!
    I am a soap maker and would like to produce soap in the NFL and MLB individual team’s colors-for example the Bronco’s colors of blue and orange in stripes. I would not put the team’s name or any NFL logos on the packaging and I would put a disclaimer on the soap stating it was not affiliated with the NFL. But how would I market that? Could I say “striped football soap” or just “striped soap”. People are not stupid and if they saw their team’s colors they would associate it with their team, but I am afraid of the copyright laws. I have ran through other possible names like Your Team soap, but I don’t think I can do that either. I would appreciate some advice.
    Thanks!

  5. What about High Schools? I have received requests to put the child’s name with school colors and either a silhouette of a cheerleader or football player with the School’s capital letter. Is that ok since I’m not using the actual school name or mascot/logo?

          1. I’m reading theses responses and want to thank you. I’ve been asked to paint NFL teams on shot glasses and wasn’t sure if I could.

  6. Is there a way to check to see which individual sellers/small businesses have purchased a license to sell NFL items. I know a couple that not only use the NFL logos, but “enhance” NFL shirts, hats, etc and resell for a profit. I’d like to purchase a couple items but don’t want to do so if they are doing this illegally. I also don’t want to be a trademark/copyright police!
    Thank you for your time and expertise!

  7. Am I allowed to change the logo and then use it? I unders tand there is an artistic license allowing me to create a similar logo but it had to be altered by 51%. Is this correct?

    1. No, that isn’t true. The definition of infringement is “similarity” or “consumer confusion”. There is no percentage change – because it would be difficult to measure.

  8. Hi Christine,
    If I was to use the outline of an NFL/NBA’s Team logo, yet have the interior filled with words associated with that club, would that be infringing on their Trademark?
    Thanks

  9. Very helpful article Christine. Thank you!
    I am hoping you can give me answers for my questions concerning the making of Hershey Bears Hockey fan wear. I have created my own image of a bear playing ice-hockey and want to include wording on garments such as: (their cheer) “Let’s Go Bears!” or “Go Bears!” or their hashtag #DefendtheDen.
    I have only been able to find trademarks online for the team name Hershey Bears and their logos. Also, I am not entirely sure I can use their colors brown and white and still be safe.
    Any thoughts? Thanks in advance,

  10. I am working on starting a small business concerning SeaHawk fan gear. I will be selling hats and I want to put a “25” (Richard Sherman’s number) on the front. The hat would just be a bright green and there would be a “25” on the front nothing more, is that legal? 🙂

  11. Very helpful article Christine.

    What about the players? Can you sell a product with the photo of the player, for example a poster or a phone case? If there difference in if the player is in his club’s shirt with a logo on the photo or just in a normal t-shirt?

    Thanks!

  12. I make reversible bandanas for dogs and have some w sports material. I know that o can not sell them. What if I have them out for viewing and sell 2 bandanas and receive a free gift to get rid of them. I make very little profit on them as is. It’s a fun project to keep me busy.

  13. I am making a soap using the same color scheme as out local NFL Team. Part of their logo is an arrowhead. I plan to embellish it with an arrowhead on the top of each soap. It will be named something not associated with the team. Is that an infringement to have an areowhead with the colors?

  14. Hi there! Would it be ok to only have the team name like Bears or Redskins only on a shirt? No logo or location that the team reps. Just plain Bears with the color orange on a blue shirt. Would that be infringement?

  15. Hi, if were to use a outline of a NFL team and alter it in some ways but not say it is for a specific team. would that be legal?

  16. Is it legal to sell crafts that you made using material you’ve purchased that has NFL team logos printed on the material? It seems it should be fine, otherwise retailers wouldn’t be allowed to sell material by the yard that has NFL logos on them. One would think the NFL has been paid a royalty already on the material.

  17. if im selling jewelry, charge for the necklace and give away the free NFL charm could I be in trouble for if Im giving these charms away.? I was asked to be a vendor at a minnesota viking game and I know the necklaces would be a big hit but Im afraid to sell something that I didnt myself license

  18. If I were to use an NFL team mascot or logo on a piece of wood, and then on the back stated that the image is trademarked with whomever is that legal?

  19. Hi there Christine,

    My father is a huge Minnesota Wilds (NHL) fan and I was thinking of purchasing a decal from the NHL website and putting it on a water bottle and giving it to him as a gift with a few extra touches. Is that an all around bad idea? I’ve read a lot of replies but I just thought I should ask. I have an LLC but I don’t want to use it for anything more than him.

  20. Hi Christine,

    Would the use of NFL teams colors in a poster (not mentioning the name or logo of the team) be okay?

    Let’s say a picture of New York City, colored by a teams’ colors.
    Would this be a violation of trademark?

    Thanks,

  21. Christine, thanks for the explanation, this save me a lot from facing a lawsuit beforehand lol.
    I have a question tho, how about if I’m making a fan-art, a character (human, animal) wearing a football uniform, that the color is resembling with one of the club (say Patriot, blue, red), but I will not put any NFL or Patriot or its logo on it. Will it still be considered as infringement?

  22. Hello Christine, this isn’t NFL related, but I would like to use the Pyrex and Corning ware pattern (flower, etc) on a coaster I plan on making. Is that legal to do so? If not, who would I need to contact?

  23. Do you know if it is illegal to print off the NFL logo and use to make earrings for myself or to give away, but not sell or make any money whatsoever?

  24. If I was to sell someone a blank item. And they asked me to put a NFL team logo on it. Would that be illegal if they paid and then made the request?

  25. Hi Christine,

    thank you so much for this article. The comments helped answer a lot of questions too. So thank you for posting this and thanks to everyone else for commenting.

    my approach to this situation goes as followed: I sell sports stickers online ( mainly through word of mouth and geo-micro marketing) I haven’t heard from any lawyers; yet. The way I see it is as long as I’m not putting a dent in the companies pocket and fly under the radar I can potentially be in the clear. mail call is probably the most stressful part of the day. I’m definitely not riding around in a Ferrari with the plates reading $ticker King but it paying some bills

    can you please clarify the process if/when I’m caught? because I’ve had the impression that a company sends a cease a desist letter first as a warning.

    as a small fish, I feel that I’m only worth getting a letter sent to rather than having a lawyer take me to court. it would probably cost them more then what they would get from my earnings lol. they can’t catch every one!

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