In 2013, Electronic Arts division EA Sports published NCAA Football 14, the latest entry in its college football videogame series. Little did we know that NCAA Football 14 would be the last version of the game. Player likeness issues came to a head, resulting in a multi-million dollar settlement between EA Sports and the Collegiate Licensing Company. Facing an uncertain landscape on trademark licensing agreement, EA Sports shelved the franchise indefinitely. The decision upset fans and players alike, who largely relished the opportunity to see themselves in a videogame. However, without a mechanism to pay players for their likeness, Electronic Arts had no choice but to discontinue the series. This week, EA Sports announced its intention to revive its College Football series – what does that mean moving forward?
Name, Image, and Likeness Rights
In 2020, the NCAA began taking steps to allow players to profit off their name, likeness, and image. This decision followed political pressure, as Congress and various states proposed bills to allow student-athletes to profit from their publicity. However, while initial steps have been taken, the NCAA continues to drag its feet on the issue. As such, concrete action allowing players to make a fair profit off their image remains a future goal.
However, the name and likeness discussions provided EA Sports with a window back into the college sports field. Interestingly, though, EA Sports announced a name change for the new series – EA Sports College Football. Previously, Electronic Arts needed to work with NCAA for licensing and permission issues, including individual school and stadium rights. For the new game, it appears that EA Sports negotiated directly with the Collegiate Licensing Company; as such, the NCAA will not be directly associated with the game. Instead, EA Sports licensed trademark rights for each team from the Collegiate Licensing Company.
EA Sports College Football – Returns Soon
For now, EA Sports does not plan to include individual player likenesses in the College Football series. However, moving forward, the games will likely include likenesses negotiated with individual players, particularly once the law catches up. Hopefully that happens sooner than later (particularly in Florida, which passed a name and likeness bill in 2020). However, consumers should be happy to know that the classic EA Sports College Football series will soon return to consoles.
Not yet – however, Electronic Arts owns multiple trademarks for EA SPORTS, making a subsequent trademark on EA SPORTS COLLEGE FOOTBALL unnecessary.
No – the NCAA name was licensed from the NCAA itself; as such, EA could not register a trademark in the previous game name.
Yes – EA registered trademarks for games such as APEX LEGENDS, ANTHEM, NEED FOR SPEED, and THE SIMS 4.