The Boise State Broncos football team is unbeaten this year and ranked in the top 10.Â But the university scored off the field the other day:Â Broncos 1, the rest of the sporting world zero.
What’s the big win?Â Boise State received a trademark registration for the color blue in connection with “Entertainment services, namely, the presentation of intercollegiate sporting events and sports exhibitions rendered in a stadium, and through the media of radio and television broadcasts and the global communications network.”Â In short, Boise State plays on a blue football field, and it wants to be sure that it plays on the only blue football field in the United States.Â Boise State’s colors are blue and orange.
Check out Registration No. 3707623, issued on November 10, 2009.
I learned about this from a student in my Trademark Law class, who advised me that Boise State has already enforced its mark against the University of New Haven.Â UNH restored its football program this year after a five-year hiatus, and because the school colors are blue and gold,Â it built a blue field (with gold trim).Â Boise State objected.Â UNH was poised to oppose Boise State’s application to register the mark.Â The two universities either now have a licensing deal in place, or will shortly.Â The New Haven Register summarizes.
Curiously, Boise State’s blue-and-orange color scheme mimics the color scheme used by another set of Broncos – Denver – from 1968 to 1996.Â To my knowledge, however, Denver never played on a blue field.
Updated 12/4: From the comments, I take note of the fact that BSU’s “The Blue” isn’t the only blue turf football field in the US. High schools in Barrow, Alaska; Hidalgo, Texas; and Lovington, New Mexico also play on blue fields. It might be said that BSU has been generous in not objecting to those fields, as it objected to UNH, but it also might be said that the number of blue football fields casts doubt on BSU’s claim that its use of blue is distinctive.
Oy. First a bit of self promo: I wrote about color alone marks here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1314951
So many schools and teams use the color blue, giving Boise State a trademark on a blue field is really appalling. And if other schools follow suit, color exhaustion will occur pretty quickly.
I was thinking about the exhaustion question when I put the post together. For some good and some not so good reasons, I think that exhaustion is improbable. Audience expectations, history, and television concerns limit the range of “acceptable” synthetic turf colors to a pretty narrow range — some blues, perhaps, and an array of greens. Mostly greens. BSU gets a lot of grief for its blue field. Can you imagine being a player for the team that has a home field that’s orange? Red? Purple? Yellow? Pink? So, while I think that “blue for football fields” is a weird mark, I don’t think that it’s extraordinary. (BSU has other color marks for field-related merchandise.) But I think that enforcing the mark against another college is weird, too. If a UNH home football game is broadcast on TV, is there a likelihood of confusion – in that some viewers will think that they are watching BSU? Or might some viewers of a BSU home game think that they’re watching UNH? If you know even the slightest thing about college football, then you know that the answer to both of those questions is “never.”
In reference to the statement about Boise State having the same colors and the NFL’s Denvr Broncos.
Boise State has had the Blue and Orange since 1932 when the school opened. The Denver Broncos however, arrived on the scene in 1960. Also, their original colors were Brown and Gold, not Blue and Orange.
Regarding the Denver vs Boise State debate and the colors blue and orange, a local news outlet in Boise did a piece on the very subject. You can find the article here: http://www.ktvb.com/news/local/64300792.html
Hint: Boise State was first by nearly 30 years, so I presume Denver is mimicking Boise!
Boise State started playing football in 1933 and were forward-thinking enough to “mimic” the Denver Broncos’ colors and mascot decades before the pro team existed.
Just one correction. Boise St. picked its colors and mascot in 1932. You might say, then, that the Denver Broncos mimicked Boise State.
Also, Boise St. and UNH did reach an agreement prior to the season starting that allowed UNH to use the colored field with no royalties. There are a number of high school teams that also have adopted blue fields, which Boise St. has not objected to. Check out the one in Barrow, AK. It has a pretty great story behind it, and some amazing photos.