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Will the pickleball league trademark conflict end up in court?

On Behalf of | Sep 18, 2023 | Trademarks

Pickleball has taken the world of court-based sports by storm. Although it has been around since the 1960s, it has risen to prominence in the last decade, causing a few conflicts along the way. Schools and athletic facilities have scrambled to allocate space for this increasingly popular sport, while those established in other sports, like tennis, have had to push back to defend the facilities that they rely on for practice.

There have been multiple issues created by pickleball in recent years, but few of them have made their way to court. Now that there is a formal league starting, hoping to monetize the growing popularity of pickleball and possibly turn it into a mainstream, televised sport, there is more scrutiny and potential for legal issues. For example, the nascent college-level pickleball league currently faces a potential trademark challenge brought by another famous college athletic association because of a possible trademark issue.

What caused the trademark conflict?

The organization hoping to create a national college-level pickleball league, the National Collegiate Pickleball Association (NCPA) technically has a unique name and an acronym that is different from any other established sports league. However, it may simply not be unique enough to avoid confusion among sports enthusiasts.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) worries that the similarity of the NCPA’s long-form name and acronym to the wording of the name and the acronym used by the NCAA could reasonably cause confusion among consumers. The concern is that colleges, students and sponsors may wrongfully believe that the NCPA has a relationship with the NCAA, which it does not. Given that both groups focus on college sports, there could be some validity to that concern.

If they do not agree to compromise, then the dispute could very well go to court. Should the courts agree with the assertion that the NCPA has an acronym too close to that of the NCAA, rebranding efforts may be necessary before the league rolls out any major marketing efforts.

Trademark and other intellectual property conflicts can be very challenging for individuals and organizations to navigate, as small details may ultimately play a major role in the outcome of such cases. Recognizing when there could be trademark concerns could benefit those developing a new brand or concerned about protecting an existing one.