Businesses steer clear of using 'Super Bowl' moniker

Businesses and radio personalities are carefully choosing their words to keep from referring Sunday's NFL Championship as the Super Bowl.

The NFL strictly polices the trademarked name of the Super Bowl, which reduces companies and even small airport signs to refer to it as the "big game" or "game day."

Grocery chain Whole Foods has avoided using "Super Bowl" on in-store signs and social media. The Facebook page for the central Phoenix location offers recipe ideas for "your Big Game party."

Signs at American Airlines ticket counters in Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport greet travelers with "Welcome to the big game." American Airlines spokesman Casey Norton said though it is the official airline for the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee, the company isn't an NFL partner.

"Like any brand, we work to protect our valuable intellectual property and the rights we extend to our partners," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

A violation of the trademark is determined on a case-by-case basis, McCarthy told The Associated Press. A restaurant writing a Super Bowl menu on a chalkboard is not considered a violation. News organizations are allowed to use Super Bowl under a fair use exception.

McCarthy said if a potential infringement is discovered, the league will notify the party involved. If nothing changes, then a cease-and-desist letter follows.

The NFL is not the only sports organization to possess strict trademark policies.

Congress created protections for the U.S. Olympic Committee giving it rights to use "Olympics" and the interlocking rings logo.

FIFA, the international soccer governing body, requires countries that host the World Cup to create special rights in their constitutions to protect advertisers, said Jeff Greenaun, a New York-based advertising lawyer with the firm Frankfurt Kurnit told The Associated Press.

Greenbaum said the NFL's enforcement is also about protecting sponsors. The league creates "official" beers, chips, sodas and other items, which can give a business a distinct advantage over its competitors.

"The strategy that they're employing is to create enough concern among marketers that they're afraid to even get close to the line," Greenbaum said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report