NCAA trying to block Globe from trademarking ‘Munch Madness’

The burgeoning sex-abuse scandal involving former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky isn’t the only thing occupying the NCAA’s time. We’ve gotten word that the suits in the NCAA central office have smaller fish to fry. They’re upset about The Boston Globe’s use of the phrase “Munch Madness’’ in relation to its annual tournament of restaurants. They’re so upset, in fact, that NCAA lawyers have petitioned the US Patent and Trademark Office to prohibit the Globe from trademarking “Munch Madness.’’ Their issue? The NCAA is worried that people may confuse our “Munch Madness’’ contest with its multimillion-dollar “March Madness’’ basketball tournament. The March Madness Athletic Association, which coordinates the licensing of the “March Madness’’ trademark for the NCAA, says its brand could be “damaged’’ by the Globe’s use of “Munch Madness.’’ The newspaper began using the phrase in 2010, when, inspired by the NCAA basketball tourney, it launched a tournament of 64 eateries and asked readers to pick their favorites. (East Coast Grill won the first year, and Hungry Mother was the champ in 2011.) A lawyer for The New York Times Co., which owns the Globe, says there’s “absolutely no likelihood’’ of confusion, pointing out that a simple Google search reveals that “Munch Madness’’ is neither new nor original. (A Connecticut restaurant chain, for example, has a food-eating relay called “Munch Madness.’’) “Everyone knows what March Madness is,’’ says Richard Samson, New York Times Co. senior counsel, “and I don’t think our little restaurant contest is going to destroy that.’’ Doug Masters, attorney for the March Madness Athletic Association, said there indeed could be confusion, and he cited the New York Times Co.’s recent lawsuit against AOL Inc. to force Huffington Post to rename its parenting blog, “Parentlode,’’ because it sounds similar name to the Times’s “Motherlode’’ blog.

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