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STUDENT ATHLETES

Is This NCAA Trademark Filing a Gender Equity Breakthrough?

The phrase “Four it All” has been used to market the women’s Final Four in the past, but with increased scrutiny regarding gender equity at the NCAA, it could become a lot more prominent.

With three months to go before March Madness, the NCAA is prepping for a college basketball postseason that will be under more scrutiny than any that has come before it. Following last year’s controversy around gender inequity and a subsequent report from Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP revealing further ills, the organization has already announced that both tournaments will use March Madness branding for the first time. Additionally, the women’s field will expand to 68 teams.

Now, another piece to the puzzle may be falling into place.

The NCAA filed an application to trademark the phrase “FOUR IT ALL” last week, as noted by attorney Josh Gerben of Gerben Intellectual Property.

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In the past, the phrase has been used to market the women’s tournament, but not the men’s. It was even featured prominently on the women’s Final Four court last season, while the men went with their traditional phrase, “The Road Ends Here.”

The application, which was filed on Dec. 7, states that the trademark would be used in “conducting annual basketball tournaments at the college level,” but does not specify gender or division. So while we don’t know specifically how the term will be applied, the end result could be encouraging.

It stands to reason that the NCAA expects FOUR IT ALL branding to become increasingly visible; there would be no reason to trademark it otherwise. And in the big picture, the NCAA has already discussed the possibility of holding the men’s and women’s Final Fours at the same location and, at minimum, it will be spending more money to promote the women’s tournament this year and beyond.

To be clear, it’s too early to say that this move signals a clear desire to unite both Final Fours under one roof.

But the phrase has a chance to speak to far more than just the marketing and branding imperatives that existing NCAA postseason trademarks like “NCAA March Madness” and “NCAA Sweet Sixteen” do.

It just boils down to how sincerely and profoundly the NCAA wants to live and breathe the spirit of that last word:

All.

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