“March Madness” is a popular term used to refer to the basketball tournament run by the National College Athletic Association (N.C.A.A.) every year in March, but it’s not an accident that everyone thinks of college basketball when they think of March Madness. It’s the result of the N.C.A.A. having trademarked the name, along with strategic branding, and they are very proactive about protecting that brand, even if it means suing a urology practice over the phrase “Vasectomy Mayhem”.
The urology practice, Virginia Urology, registered the term “Vasectomy Mayhem” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and proceeded to launch an ad campaign linking their practice to the March Madness basketball tournaments. Their ads featured a doctor, in scrubs and with a basketball, claiming if men wanted an excuse to stay home and watch basketball all weekend, they could do so while recovering from their vasectomy.
The N.C.A.A. sued the urology practice, claiming the term “Vasectomy Mayhem” was too similar to “March Madness”, and as a result, might cause confusion and dilute the value of their brand. According to the complaint, the N.C.A.A. believes its brand has already suffered damage from the registration of the term, and will continue to suffer damage if the urology practice is allowed to maintain the registration and continue using the term “Vasectomy Mayhem” in their advertising.
Virginia Urology, located in Richmond, VA, denies the allegation that the term “Vasectomy Mayhem” infringes on any other brand, and they said in a statement that they regret the expensive legal process associated with defending their registration, and that they remain focused on serving their patients and their community. Whether they will continue to defend the registration remains to be seen.
In 2016, the same urology practice registered the phrase “Vasectomy Madness” for the same purpose: advertising the convenience of having a vasectomy during March Madness so men would have an excuse to stay home and watch basketball. The N.C.A.A. sued them for that registration as well, and the legal dispute ended with a settlement that assigned the rights of the term “Vasectomy Madness” to the N.C.A.A. Whether this lawsuit will end the same way remains to be seen.
Although the term “vasectomy” does not appear in any of the N.C.A.A.’s branding or messaging for their March tournaments, they do own the rights to the terms, “March Madness”, “March Mayhem”, and “Midnight Madness”, which would explain why switching from “Vasectomy Madness” to “Vasectomy Mayhem” was not enough to protect the urology practice from legal action, especially since both included basketball imagery.
Virginia Urology is not the first company not associated with the N.C.A.A. to try to benefit from all the hype over March Madness, and the N.C.A.A. is notoriously proactive in defending their brand. Since the N.C.A.A. relies heavily on corporate sponsorships to fund their athletic events (including their famous basketball tournaments), the organization stresses the importance of defending their brand from anyone using it without a sponsorship. Not only does it have the potential to devalue their brand, it also has the potential to devalue their very expensive corporate sponsorships.
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