NCAA Drops License With EA, Little Actually Changes

Sean Gardner

Do you care about the NCAA's logo? No? Then this means nothing to you.

The Ed O'Bannon lawsuit strikes again. The NCAA has decided to stop licensing its name and logo to EA for the line of NCAA Football video games. Here are the important lines from the press release:

The NCAA has made the decision not to enter a new contract for the license of its name and logo for the EA Sports NCAA Football video game. ... We are confident in our legal position regarding the use of our trademarks in video games. But given the current business climate and costs of litigation, we determined participating in this game is not in the best interests of the NCAA. ...

Member colleges and universities license their own trademarks and other intellectual property for the video game. They will have to independently decide whether to continue those business arrangements in the future.

So: choosing not to re-up on this deal is not an admission of guilt on the NCAA's part. Well, not an explicit one, anyway. It's tired of spending a fortune on legal fees in the O'Bannon lawsuit, so it is going to try to stop doing anything that might cause further legal headaches. Notably, this contract was only for the football game. Presumably, the NCAA will let its contract for the line of basketball games lapse when it comes up for renewal in the future.

Second, all it means is that the game can no longer bear the NCAA name and logo. If all of the schools and universities choose to continue licensing their stuff to EA, then next year we could have an EA College Football 15 game to follow up this year's NCAA Football 14 game.

With that said, I imagine that many schools will take a moment to consider following the NCAA's lead here. To date I've not seen anything to suggest that the individual schools could be hit with lawsuits similar to O'Bannon's against the NCAA, but schools can be skittish about legal affairs. It'll be something to watch. After all, the papers that players must sign to kiss away any claims on their likenesses that are at the center of the suit are between them and the NCAA.

In any event, this is the first O'Bannon lawsuit shoe to drop. It's pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but it could be a portent of future events.

UPDATE

And there you go.

UPDATE 2

EA has a press release saying that its college football game line isn't going anywhere. It doesn't explicitly say this, but it heavily implies that the Collegiate Licensing Company (which handles intellectual property licensing for schools) will continue to license team logos and such for inclusion in the games.

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