When we say Las Vegas, you should think ‘Madness’ February 22, 2013 at 5:37 pm Alan Snel, LasVegas Review-Journal “The Madness Begins Here.” That’s the catchy new slogan aimed at creating more buzz for basketball in Las Vegas during the frenzied month of March, when Sin City will host an unprecedented four college conference tournaments in three arenas, plus the popular NCAA hoops tourney to follow. But is it legal? If the term, “Madness,” sounds familiar in the context of big-time college basketball, you probably have heard the NCAA’s iconic – and trademarked – nickname for its national tournament: “March Madness.” And that’s why R&R Partners, which created “The Madness Begins Here” campaign, and its client, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, are running the slogan past their lawyers to see if it infringes on the NCAA’s famed moniker, said Rob Dondero, R&R executive vice president. R&R, the Las Vegas ad firm famous for creating the legendary “What Happens Here, Stays Here” campaign and the LVCVA expect to hear their lawyers’ opinions on Tuesday, Dondero said. If the lawyers green light the phrase, R&R will start buying advertising space on major sports websites such as espn.com and Yahoo Sports, he said. The LVCVA and its ad firm are hot for basketball because March is a big month for college hoops in Las Vegas. A record four college basketball conferences have their tournaments here – Pac 12 at MGM Grand Garden March 13-16; Western Athletic (March 6-11) and West Coast (March 12-16), both at Orleans Arena; and Mountain West at Thomas & Mack Center March 12-16. Then, it’s time for The Big Dance, the NCAA basketball tournament – one of the premier sports book events in Las Vegas. Dondero noted the first weekend of the NCAA tourney is a major “Guys Out” getaway for college basketball fans from across the country who flock to Las Vegas to follow their teams in tournament brackets. “If you can’t get to an NCAA tournament game then Las Vegas is the next-best place to be,” said Vince Alberta, LVCVA vice president of public affairs. Dondero is aware the NCAA is vigilant in protecting that well-known March Madness trademark. Lawyers interviewed Friday were split. While R&R has proposed the “Madness” term as part of the suggested marketing slogan for March, the mere use of the word isn’t automatically a legal infringement of the NCAA’s March Madness, said Scottsdale, Ariz. lawyer Farley Weiss, who handles trademark cases. “It’s an interesting question. It depends on who the person is and what the reason is for using the term,” Weiss said. The NCAA might look differently at an unlicensed T-shirt vendor making money off the March Madness trademark than a public agency trying to create fan excitement around college basketball in March – a goal that might be embraced by NCAA officials, Weiss said. If the LVCVA uses phrase, “It could benefit the NCAA by getting more people to the arenas,” Weiss said. But Las Vegas lawyer Ryan Gile, who specializes in trademark issues and writes a blog on the topic, theorized the NCAA would likely believe that “The Madness Begins Here” crossed the line. “I would advise to stay away from it,” Gile said Friday. “It’s taking advantage of the good will of March Madness. The NCAA is aggressive about protecting references to Madness.” Gile said that using “The Madness Begins Here phrase” to sell the city as a wild, crazy and fun place outside of the March basketball context, the Madness slogan might not be seen as an infringement. Las Vegas trademark lawyer Mark Borghese also said the phrase would rankle NCAA lawyers. “It’s risky,” Borgese said. “My advice is come up with a different word than ‘Madness.'” NCAA officials could not be reached for comment Friday. Contact reporter Alan Snel at email@example.com or 702-387-5273.