Because of the power of its brand name, the National Hockey League closely monitors and controls the use of its logo as well as the logos of its teams and other properties. In order to use the league's official logos on products, companies must seek and receive approval through a licensing agreement with the league's marketing division, NHL Enterprises. Replica uniforms that bear the name of an NHL player must also have approval from the league's players' association.
The logos that require a licensing agreement in advance of their use on clothing and other products go beyond just the NHL logo and the logos of its teams. The league also owns the protected rights to other logos like the image of the Stanley Cup, the NHL Network logo, the logos for video games and other products that are produced in partnership with the NHL and the official website name and logo. Companies or individuals looking to use any of these must receive written permission from the league in the form of a licensing agreement.
Requirements for a Licensee
The NHL does not give out its licensing rights to just anyone. The league has certain minimum requirements that must be met before an application will even be considered. The company can't be a new entity, but must have an established five year history in producing products and sending them out to retail establishments, and at least five years in selling the product that it wants to sell using NHL licensed logos. Also, it is an absolute necessity that the licensing agreement be entered into with the actual manufacturer of the product, not the company promoting or distributing the licensed product.
The NHL is open to new product categories as it evaluates licensing requests, but it does have a list of products that have included the league's name and logos in the past. Those product types include clothing, electronic equipment, novelties, hats, furniture, sports equipment, published works, toys, as well as trading cards and other collectible items.
The NHL requires some specific information from companies seeking to use its name and logo under license. In addition to the regular contact data, the league also needs to have names and biographies of the companies top managers in addition to all publicly disclosed financial data. The league also wants to know what the company will do with the NHL license and need to see a history of the company in the retail business. The NHL is concerned with making sure that its logo will be used in a way consistent with its reputation and by stable organizations that will represent the league well.
NHL Enterprises does not take new creative ideas of products not currently in the marketplace unless it has asked for them in advance. Their information on applying for a licensing agreement includes a policy regarding this. The league wants to make sure that it avoids legal issues that may arise out of its creation of new products that might be similar to something sent in by another company. This would apply to new product concepts or designs as well as other kinds of creative materials. Companies who ignore this request are under the small print in the NHL licensing policy that essentially protects the league from future legal action.