Would A Moron In A Hurry Be Confused By The Difference Between A High School And A Pickup Truck?

from the depends-on-the-moron dept

Copycense points us to a story from Florida involving a high school that quite clearly copied the logo of the Dodge Ram for the school mascot:

After someone alerted Chrysler, the lawyers got involved, and the school is now in the process of changing its logo and removing it from everything (including the gym floor). My first though was wondering whether or not this was “use in commerce,” which is required for trademark infringement. I think a lawyer could make an argument that a school’s usage isn’t use in commerce — but perhaps that’s undermined by the logo appearing on school clothing (though, it’s not clear that the clothes are for sale, or just what the sports teams get). However, I do wonder if the Dodge logo trademark covers use on gymnasium floors and clothing…

But, honestly, the bigger issue is why the hell would Chrysler be upset about this? At worst it’s getting a ton of free advertising from this school, with many students having a feeling of affinity for the logo, which could potentially increase their interest in buying a Dodge in the future. Car companies spend lots of money on sponsorship to get their logos seen by lots of people. And here’s a school that’s done that entirely for free… and Chrysler sends in the lawyers?

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Companies: chrysler

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Comments on “Would A Moron In A Hurry Be Confused By The Difference Between A High School And A Pickup Truck?”

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104 Comments
Burgos says:

Re: No diffrenece

I don’t really know what constitutes infringement when it comes to trademarks but I agree that the school would have done better in not copying the logo.

It might be good for the Dodge brand, with the free advertising and all. But it gives the impression that Lake Mary doesn’t encourage creativity in its students and staff. School officials could have just gotten any kid to doodle another ram-like figure and we wouldn’t even be reading about this.

The Anti-Mike (profile) says:

Why the heck would the school copy the logo?

Mike, you get all up the French government agency for having a third party misuse a font on their logo, and yet you come down on the side of a school that absolutely and totally copied a well known logo, and were stupid enough to reproduce it in everything including a gym floor?

wow.

just wow.

Hulser (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

But that’s precisely why the story about the French governemnt agency was so newsworthy. Yes, anyone can tell that the two ram logos are the same. But the irony in the French government story came because the French government wants to hold other people accountable for aspects of the law that only a copyright lawyer would be familiar with, but not themselves. So, no, most people don’t know the difference between different fonts or are even aware that there could be copyright issues. But the very government that is saying that everyone should know didn’t know themselves.

R. Miles (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Why the heck would the school copy the logo?”
The very first question I asked myself when I read the article.

Either the students don’t have access to art classes or someone really, really did a stupid thing.

Regardless if a moron can tell the difference or not, this purposely copied image just screams lack of student input.

Now I’d begin to question the grades the students received given they’re just copies of former students passing the halls of this wonderful education institution.

I’m siding with Dodge on this one. The least the school could have done was put “Dodge” under the logo. Then maybe the lawyers wouldn’t be needed.

TAAM says:

Re: Missd the train again

Mike doesn’t actually approve or disapprove of what the school did. He was just saying after the fact that Dodge could have used this as an opportunity to build its brand.

In this instance it is not like the school is selling mid and full sized trucks. There is no confusion over brands here. So while it may have been dumb to use an obviously lifted logo why should the lawyers have to get involved in a punitive way?

Instead of building bridges this incident will likely leave everyone from this town with a bad taste in their mouth. This is no way to sell cars/trucks and Dodge should know better.

Everything like this should be viewed as an opportunity. You make lemonade out of lemons and Dodge should know better.

The Anti-Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Missd the train again

Mike doesn’t actually approve or disapprove of what the school did. He was just saying after the fact that Dodge could have used this as an opportunity to build its brand.

It’s the same story though: Don’t worry about piracy, embrace it. Don’t worry about copyright violations, embrace them. In the end, it is saying “those who steal from you or misuse your products aren’t bad, you are bad because you were too stupid to give it away for free already”.

There is no bridge to build here, just people too lazy to come up with their own logo.

DocMenach (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Missd the train again

It’s the same story though: Don’t worry about piracy, embrace it. Don’t worry about copyright violations, embrace them. In the end, it is saying “those who steal from you or misuse your products aren’t bad, you are bad because you were too stupid to give it away for free already”.

I think you completely misread what Mike was saying. I see it more of “Those who misuse your trademarks are often misguided. It is better to work with them and get good PR out of the situation, than to break out the layers and suffer bad PR”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Missd the train again

And yet you still fail to explain (of course) why the logo being used (not stolen, but I don’t expect you to understand the difference) is bad for Dodge, or why suing is good for Dodge, or why you consistently fail to actually address the points made and instead attempt to sidetrack everything so you can Dodge (oh no!) away every time your arguments are dismantled.

Burgos says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Missd the train again

A stretch, but bear with me:

why the logo being used (not stolen, but I don’t expect you to understand the difference) is bad for Dodge

The school has the logo printed on stuff like athletics apparel. Of the hundreds of students and alumni, a couple of nasty ones sticks up a store while wearing one of the “Dodge shirts” and gets caught on the store’s surveillance. Footage is released on the evening news and/or America’s Most Daring. Bad for the brand, right?

The school basketball team does well in the district competition and goes state-level, or whatever comes after. The local TV broadcast of the game is sponsored by Dodge. The appearance of the team gives viewers the impression that it’s also sponsored by Dodge. Needless, time-wasting questions come up. Not good for either brand or school. Then the team gets a whooping from the competition. Again, not good for the brand.

Hulser (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Missd the train again

In the end, it is saying “those who steal from you or misuse your products aren’t bad, you are bad because you were too stupid to give it away for free already”.

There is a key difference between what you’re saying above and what Mike actually says. Mike doesn’t say that illegal downloads/copyright infringers/etc are not “bad” of what they’re doing is not illegal. What he does say is that the subjective issue of the morality of their actions are irrelevent to the issue of making money. You’re falling into the trap of getting focused on whether a certain behavior infringes on the rights of a company, when the goal of a company should be to make money, not to protect every one of their rights. Would you rather invest in a company that did the “right” thing and squandered all of its assets chasing down “thieves” or one that embraced the current business environment and found out a way to make money in it?

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Missd the train again

> In the end, it is saying “those who steal from you or misuse
> your products aren’t bad, you are bad because you were too
> stupid to give it away for free already”.

Who the hell is stealing or misusing a product here? Or are you under some deluded impression that Dodge is in the business of selling logos instead of vehicles?

No one stole a product and Mike isn’t advocating that anyone do so. He’s merely saying that, “Hey, if I were running that business, I wouldn’t run in with my lawyers and put a stop to something that could potentially result in increased brand recognition and the sale of a few vehicles.” It’s like found money. Most people don’t complain when that happens and it’s an odd thing to find someone who does.

Gus says:

Copyright laws are funny things...

Things like this come up all the time. It’s obviously bad PR for Chrysler, but if they don’t defend their trademarks whenever they’re infringed (and this is clear infringement, if the school sells one ticket to a basketball game they’re engaging in commerce), from a legal perspective they effectively lose the trademark. In all likelihood, Chrysler will win the lawsuit, then demand some ridiculously trivial licensing fee (like $1) to continue using the logo.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Copyright laws are funny things...

“and this is clear infringement, if the school sells one ticket to a basketball game they’re engaging in commerce”

Two companies can have the same thing trademarked and not be infringing as long as their products are different enough that they do not confuse consumers. Take “Delta” – do you confuse the faucet maker with the airline? So, this is probably a clear case of it not being trademark infringement and the school (I assume) is not making or selling automobiles and the automobile maker is not running an educational facility.

Dodge may have a copyright claim for the use of logo itself, but that is clearly a different case.

Hulser (profile) says:

Re: Re: Copyright laws are funny things...

So, this is probably a clear case of it not being trademark infringement and the school (I assume) is not making or selling automobiles and the automobile maker is not running an educational facility.

If it were 20 or more years ago, I’d agree with you without any further debate. But today, public schools have become so much more commercialized. No, a public school is not selling trucks, but I think that trademark law includes aspects of sponsorship or perceived affiliation as well. Specifically, even a moron in a hurry wouldn’t think that the school was selling Dodge vehicles just because of the logo. But…might not a reasonable person assume that there was some sponsorship of the school by Dodge or some official affiliation with the company? I think it’s at least possible. And in that respect, there could be some consumer confusion which falls under the umbrella of trademark law.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Copyright laws are funny things...

Actually, Dodge has an issue with trademark, not copyright. Logo’s are a bit different with respect to different uses, especially with well-known brands such as Dodge. You will note that Coca-Cola has trademarked just about everything you can envision with respect to their logo and name. Plus, Coca-Cola’s logos are so well known that it would be virtually impossible to use them without invoking a vision of Coca-Cola (which is why Coca-Cola puts their logo in as many places as possible).

I think the real question is the one previously asked. Just who was the genius that thought it was a good idea to copy someone’s logo and use it for their own? Hardly seems like a very smart idea.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Copyright laws are funny things...

> but if they don’t defend their trademarks whenever they’re
> infringed… from a legal perspective they effectively lose the
> trademark.

Not if they give the school permission to use it. If I were the boss at Dodge, I’d say to myself, “Hey, this could be great for our brand recognition in the area. Get down there with a few lawyers and tell the school they can keep using the logo but make it clear they’re only doing it with our permission. Have them sign some document that acknowledges that.”

That removes any infringement issue and there will be no danger they could lose the trademark.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

The school should have changed

But isn’t there a part of trademark law that states that the offending company has to be in the same market? Unless Dodge is opening high schools now, I don’t think that’s a problem.

The Dodge logo is so well known that most people would look at the high school and say “why the hell would they use the Dodge logo”. It doesn’t just seem like a blatant ripoff (it is), it seems lazy and insulting to the students of the school. They should have made their own. I’d bet that more than a few students are rooting on Dodge just because they think the logo sucks.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

In this case I’m hardly surprised they are trying to stop it… it is, after all, a direct and exact copy of the Dodge logo. It seems like plagiarism to me, which is something I’m not a huge fan of even when it isn’t technically illegal.

That being said, it seems like it would have been much smarter for Dodge to throw a small sponsorship their way, attach “Dodge” to the school logo and let them use it freely.

a-dub (profile) says:

I wouldnt have used that logo unless Dodge was paying for the uniforms, etc. The school was irresponsible in its use of the logo to begin with. If youre going to copy a major company’s logo for some other use, then you might as well establish some sort of official relationship with the company. In this case, the school was stupid and its no surprise that they were asked to stop using the logo.

Anonymous Coward says:

The Orlando Sentinel reports that a Chrysler dealership is footing the bill for the high school to create a new logo.

BTW, the Seminole County School Board was informed by its lawyer that the case was a sure loser for the school district.

Also BTW, many trademark holders are perfectly willing to allow uses of their mark, but prudently create some groundrules so that the mark is not used in a way that may diminish/tarnish the goodwill associated with the mark.

Alan Gerow (profile) says:

I’m going to have to side with Dodge on this one. While they are different industries (automotive manufacturing vs education), a moron in a hurry may not see a logo and initially know what the logo is for. Since the logo is an exact copy of previous work, simply seeing the logo on display in many cases would not make it totally clear on what the logo is representing. If the logo is on the side of a bus that the football team is riding to another school, is the bus a Dodge? Or is the bus advertising the team inside? If someone is wearing a t-shirt, is that a pro-Dodge t-shirt, or a support for the local high school t-shirt? In a hurry, it’s fuzzy because of the direct copy.

If the logo were used in a parody or satirical nature, or transformed into a unique piece of work, I would concede there enters a gray area … but copying a logo and removing the shield border, that’s lame on a personal level, and highly questionable from a legal one.

Though, I personally think the better response from Dodge would be to instead of calling the lawyer goons, make a large donation to the athletic of the rival school.

“You steal our logo, we’ll steal your championship.”

Griff (profile) says:

Why copy?

>>why the hell would Chrysler be upset about this?

Brand dilution. Products like Aspirin and Kerosene come to mind – products that were once trademarked names, but because they were so commonly used, lost that protective status.

Granted, I don’t think there’s any danger of Chrysler losing the logo’s status simply because a school copied it – but, when you have a distinctive brand, you have to protect it.

What I can’t understand is why didn’t this school simply pick a logo from the royalty free artwork that floats around out there? I can’t believe that someone didn’t see this beforehand and go “Hey, that looks just like the logo on my Dodge!”

Then again, maybe they did.

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: Why copy?

“Brand dilution. Products like Aspirin and Kerosene come to mind – products that were once trademarked names, but because they were so commonly used, lost that protective status.”

For dillution to be a problem people would have to be refering to trucks as Dodges or Rams. This appears to be a copyright case, where dillution wouldn’t apply.

NAMELESS.ONE says:

to chrylser the school mike and anti mike- WHO CARES

this is one of those things that they copied it verbatim and like you say they shuld want to be unique WHY the hell did they copy it exactly?

no brainer if you allow this shit to continue then stuff gets murky for others thus precident says SCHOOL BAD.

end of story move along
oh and im sure a competition for a rams head ot be differant would work

Hosermage (profile) says:

You may think it’s harmless for a school to copy the logo. But what if the school’s football team is horribly bad and constantly gets beat by the other schools whose mascots are Ford, Toyota, and Chevy? I think the company has the right to prevent itself from possible embarrassing situations if they can. With the way that corporations are paying to rename sports stadiums and such, to allow this might be assumed by others as endorsement.

Brooks (profile) says:

PR problems

So forcing the school to change the logo is a PR disaster of relatively known proportions in the short term. Maybe not a smart move.

Without defending it, I can tell you that the corporate/lawyer motive is to prevent a PR problem of unknown proportion at an unknown time in the future. There’s a low but real probability that the school and its logo will get negative PR and Dodge’s brand equity will suffer by the linkage.

From silly stuff like embarrassing photos being taken on the logo to serious stuff like school shootings, Dodge’s lawyers are concerned that there *could* be a downside of unknown size.

Is it a smart choice? I’m skeptical. But painting it as somehow knee-jerk and obviously stupid displays a lack of understanding of the motivations and issues. Might as well have some idea of what you’re talking about.

Ian says:

Standard thing–if you don’t defend the trademark, it can be taken from you.

Additionally, you can’t just license your trademark willy-nilly. If you license a trademark without also spending a lot of effort to control and manage the way in which its used, that can also have the effect of weakening and/or destroying your trademark.

They’re stuck in a legal bind where they can’t just let them use it. Further, while Dodge is primarily in the motor vehicle market, they (like many large brands) aren’t exclusively there, I don’t think. They also sell keychains, shirts, and other merchandise, while it sounds like the school may have been doing the same thing.

Why do you ever go after someone like a school? Because you have to. I don’t see it as being particularly spiteful or anything, as it doesn’t sound like they’re pressing for damages.

Blame the law, if you must, not the company. Though, while I think copyright should be drastically reduced or abolished entirely, trademark actually provides a lot of benefits for consumers. The sue-it-or-lose-it provisions that are causing trouble for one school here are also an important element in terms of society’s ability to reclaim terms from trademark holders (a balance against society’s protection from deceptive marketing).

Ian (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Clearly it is a case of likely confusion. As noted, Chrysler doesn’t just use those images/brand names/etc for vehicles. They also license it to people to manufacture Dodge shirts, keychains, etc… which it seems like the school is also doing. Confusion can also occur across market sectors where the similarity is so obvious (or the original mark so well-known) that it would appear that the two are related. IE, if you’re taking the mark of a famous brand of trucks and using their logo exactly.

If you read the article, there’s no mention of a lawsuit. They sent a communication from their lawyer–ie, they sent a notice that they believe there is infringement. The school looked into it, realized they’d lose, and said, “Okay, how do we resolve this?” Then Chrysler extended them a year to wind things up smoothly, so as to achieve the result without causing too much hardship.

So basically this is a case of “Chrysler notices that it is exposed to a potentially billion-dollar trademark problem. Chrysler sends a letter to try to rectify this without suing. Chrysler is reasonable in its settlement to solve the problem. People freak out.”

If Chrysler wanted, they could have done all sorts of nasty things here. They didn’t. Calling them villains when their hand was forced, and they were as gentle as possible is a bit unfair.

Brooks (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You’re confusing the legal principle of trademark defense with the marketing proposition of brand dilution. And there is no “sue-it-or-lose-it” provision in the trademark statutes. There *are* court precedents that active control of proprietary marks is a defense against the claim that they have become generic.

Legally, Dodge can license it to everyone under the sun with no repercussions. Think about how many licensees Apple and Microsoft have — hundreds of thousands each, generally at zero or minimal cost. You sign an agreement, you get to use their logo in your promotional materials, websites, business cards, and so on.

Whether it’s smart to do so, and whether it weakens brand perception, is an issue for business people, not lawyers. The law is silent on the matter (and rightfully so). The issue is perceived affiliation and PR upside/downside, with absolutely zero legal or trademark implications.

Anonymous Coward says:

In this political climate, the school may have lost the court case, but Dodge would have lost a lot of customers. It’s too bad the school board didn’t fight.

Sometimes it’s worth it to call the bluff and go to court and lose – Big corporation vs school board doesn’t play well in the eyes of a underemployed public…

Brooks (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Sure, and once the school was alerted to the issue, it becomes willful infringement. As a parent or taxpayer, how would you feel about a school board spending money to defend a case that they are obviously in the wrong on and are equally obviously going to lose?

Sure, PR black eye for Dodge, probably a few lost sales in already hard times. Lots of wasted money for a school. And the school board gets to look like morons and spend their time on cute legal strategies and blame-shifting PR maneuvers rather than managing their school.

That’s a preferable outcome to just accepting that everyone here made mistakes and moving on? That’s the world you want to live in?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The world I want to live in is one where corporations aren’t granted the rights of living beings. Where I know where my food comes from, even if I don’t grow it myself. Where I know who my neighbors are because we often bump into each other walking to the local hardware or grocery store. Etc, etc.

Anything that hurts corporations is good in my book.

The school board, in this case, is hardly “moving on.” They are incurring costs to the tax payer anyway.

Spaceman Spiff (profile) says:

Dodge is Dead

Chrysler is effectively defunct. After Iaccoca’s brilliant recovery/restructuring of the company a couple of decades ago, management again has screwed the pooch, leaving stockholders and customers holding the short stick. Am I surprised about this behavior regarding the school? Not in the slightest. They are just putting another bullet in their head.

The Devil's Coachman (profile) says:

Why would any school want an association with anything Chrysler?

If I were the school principal, I certainly would not want the school associated with any company the likes of Chrysler. The negative implications are enormous, and there simply is no upside. What would be a nice cheer for a team that chooses to use a Dodge Ram as it’s mascot? How about, “Two, four, six, eight – urrrr, urrrr, urrrr, urrrrr….Start, dammit!”

Dallas IT Guy says:

Bigger problem for vendors to the school

Even if Dodge decided not to take any action against the school, this really causes problems for the companies that sell custom products to the school/PTA/booster clubs.

Any printer or promotional products company who produced something with that logo on it would need permission from Dodge, or they’d be infringing and liable for damages.

This was just exceptionally poor judgement by the school.

Danny (profile) says:

sue the designer

If the school paid money for the design, they should go after their designer – and get that person to pay their costs for the redesign/repainting etc. It would have been fraud.

And if the design was contributed by a student or employee who didn’t know better; well, you get what you pay for.

Either way, Dodge could have made this a win/win and didn’t.

SurveyGuy says:

And what about the Plagiarism?

Besides the infringement legal issue, someone in the school appropriated someone else’s art and others condoned it. I find it incomprehensible that no one noticed. (Of course given today’s numbskull educator’s, anything is possible.)

While plagiarism usually refers to writing and ideas, this is still an ethical violation usually frowned upon by the educational establishment. This shows how low our standards have fallen in that regard.

JB says:

Moron Test

The Moron in a Hurry test allows the school to call themselves the “Rams”, but it does not allow them to use the logo.

I understand that the Seminole Rams have nothing to do with Dodge Ram pickup trucks, but it would be very confusing to me if the Seminole Rams have the Dodge Ram logo on their jerseys.

There are lots of businesses that have “McDonalds” in their name, but they can’t use the golden arches as their logo.

Anonymous Coward says:

Sorry Mike. I’m usually on your side with these copyright articles, but I have to disagree with you this time. Seriously, bring in the lawyers. If a school is too lazy to come up with their own logo and blatantly rip off another well known logo, they deserve this. I don’t think it has anything to do with the “moron in a hurry” stuff. I don’t know a whole lot about the specifics in law, but this was just downright stupidity on the schools part.

If they want to have a picture of a Lamb, then they could do what everyone else does and hold a competition for their students to design one. Ripping off one is just downright lazy and stupid.

The Anti-Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I have to shake my head. If this doesn’t register on you are a copyright violation and a trademark violation, I doubt anything will.

How much more obvious does it have to be? Would you have been more convinced if they changed them name of the school to “Dodge High School” or perhaps named all of their sports teams after dodge products?

For a supposedly smart guy, you seem to ask some pretty dumb questions at times.

Luci says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

So… Dodge is in the business of teaching high school kids, now? Seriously? Or are you reaching? How is this possibly a trademark violation? What ‘product’ is being confused or harmed?

You really like going at this stuff half-assed, don’t you? Still haven’t given anything to support your argument, where-ass I can say that since the school and the auto manufacturer are not in competition that there is no confusion.

The Anti-Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Reaching?

The logo is a duplication of the dodge logo. It isn’t “close”, it isn’t a “rendition”, it’s a 100% copy, just without the word “DODGE” at the bottom.

Ignore the trademark violation for a second, you have a very clear copyright violation. You don’t even have to go any further. Your “will anyone confuse a school with a car company” rant is meaningless, because in copyright, it doesn’t matter. The artwork is a duplicate, no modifications at all.

On the trademark side, it is easy to see where someone might imply that Dodge supports the school, or approves of the school, etc. Dodge has no interest in this school, and doesn’t approve of it.

How hard is that to understand?

:) says:

It is allowed by law.

They could at least tried to make it a bit different like the guys from Paperchase did LoL

Can the Same Mark Be Registered to Different Parties in the Same Country?

Yes, this is possible in most countries, with limitations in certain cases. As a rule, the same mark may be used and registered by different entities, as long as the mark is used in connection with goods and services that are distinct, such that consumer confusion will not happen in the marketplace. This is facilitated in countries following the International Classification of Goods and Services system, for example, the United States. However, in a country that does not use a formal classification system, for example, Canada, this situation could present certain difficulties since the mark would be used in connection with goods or services that are not clearly distinct. In addition, due care must be exercised as multiple ownership and use of the same mark by different entities could result in destroying the distinctiveness of a mark, thus invalidating the exclusive rights attached to a mark.

Source of the above quote

The caveat being that in the U.S. one can force other not to use a trademark if they are famous by claiming dilution which basicaly gives the famous part the advantage saying that any use that can divide the attention of the public into thinking that the brand can be used for any other thing is considered dilution and could lead to terminationof a trademark.

U.S.Code – Title 15 – Chapter 22 – Subchapter III – § 1125

(c) Dilution by blurring; dilution by tarnishment
(1) Injunctive relief
Subject to the principles of equity, the owner of a famous mark that is distinctive, inherently or through acquired distinctiveness, shall be entitled to an injunction against another person who, at any time after the owner’s mark has become famous, commences use of a mark or trade name in commerce that is likely to cause dilution by blurring or dilution by tarnishment of the famous mark, regardless of the presence or absence of actual or likely confusion, of competition, or of actual economic injury.

TRADEMARK DILUTION REVISION ACT OF 2006

Public Law 109 – 312 – Trademark Dilution Revision Act of 2006

According to wikipedia the Public Law 109 – 312 – Trademark Dilution Revision Act of 2006 reversed the U.S. Supreme Court decision in MOSELEY V. V SECRET CATALOGUE, INC. (01-1015) 537 U.S. 418 (2003)
259 F.3d 464, reversed and remanded.
That found that people had to prove actual harm instead of assumed harm.

Justice Stevens delivered the opinion of the Court.*

In 1995 Congress amended §43 of the Trademark Act of 1946, 15 U.S.C. § 1125 to provide a remedy for the “dilution of famous marks.” 109 Stat. 985—986. That amendment, known as the Federal Trademark Dilution Act (FTDA), describes the factors that determine whether a mark is “distinctive and famous,” and defines the term “dilution” as “the lessening of the capacity of a famous mark to identify and distinguish goods or services.”1 The question we granted certiorari to decide is whether objective proof of actual injury to the economic value of a famous mark (as opposed to a presumption of harm arising from a subjective “likelihood of dilution” standard) is a requisite for relief under the FTDA.

So there you have a law that permit ambiguity till ones gets famous, and was passed very recently in congress and nobody saw it coming.

It doesn’t matter that the trademark is in another area if there is a possibility that it will blurr the public concept of the brand the famous part can block others from using it and it doesn’t need to prove dilution or anything, the Supreme Court even tried to reason but Congress passed the law anyway.

Fair and square the congress we elected screwed everyone, maybe on purpose or maybe not, but is hard to believe that after a decade lowering barriers everywhere they didn’t see this coming.

Lachlan Hunt (profile) says:

This is a clear case of not only trademark infringment, but copyright infringment. It’s clear that the designer of the schools logo has simply copied the Dodge logo, removed the border and the word “DODGE” from below, and given it to the school. That is highly unethical behaviour from the designer.

If the designer had instead drawn the ram differently, then that would be fine. There’s no problem with both the school logo and Dodge’s logo being Rams. The problem here is the blatant copying that has occured.

And I don’t buy the argument that this is simply free advertising for dodge. It can give the false impression that Dodge is somehow affiliated with the school, such as a sponsorship deal.

jsf (profile) says:

Copyright Trademark Confusion Again

I would expect that any case brought by Chrysler would also include copyright infringement and that is were the school would quickly loose the case. While the image is used as a trademark, the actual artwork is also covered by copyright, and the school blatantly ripped off artwork. Most likely by someone too lazy to come up with something new. Possibly an outside graphics consultant that charged a pretty penny.

known coward says:

yea the skewl screwed up,

but i would see it as a marketing oppertunity for Dodge.

If i were their marketeers i would make the school sign a licensing agreementthat allows, in exchange for providing the school with RAM logoed merchandise, to be able to use it in an ad caampaign something to the effect of “American Dodge, supports high school sports” and then advertise the crap out of it on TV. From dodge minivans taking kids to sports games, to RAM trucks carrying field equipment, etc, etc.

Arborlaw (profile) says:

Dilution and affinity marketing

Interestingly enough Chrysler turns out to be not very sophisticated about affinity marketing. The federal registration for the Ram logo is here: http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=doc&state=4001:poolju.6.1, but it only covers autos and auto parts. However, the scope of a federal registration is not definitive for purposes of deciding infringement/no_infringement: the caselaw is clear that whatever goods and services you actually sell are the goods and services you can claim infringement on. Chrysler definitely sells some officially licensed merchandise, http://www.mopardodge.com/merchandise/dodgehats.htm. The fact that it does so means it is in the market for shirts and hats and that would directly conflict with any education-related promotional merchandise. So with respect to straight-up t-shirts vs. t-shirts, Chrysler has a slam-dunk trademark infringement case. (And they do have a slam-dunk copyright infringement case on the copying of the logo design, but let’s leave that one aside — this is about whether it makes sense for Chrysler to attempt to benefit from this kind of unauthorized use.) Even where there is a mis-match of goods and services (see the argument above that this is not infringement because the uses are for different things), the Dodge Ram is arguably a “famous” mark (such as Coca-Cola) which is protected against any other use in commerce, because the first thing anyone thinks when they see that logo, in any context, is “this is from Chrysler.” As far as affinity merchandising goes, Chrysler is really missing the boat: Harley Davidson makes billions off its merchandising unit and those sales only serve to promote and reinforce the public’s desire to buy the original product.

There might be some promotional goodwill created by use by a third party such as a high school, but that doesn’t mean that Chrysler would be benefited by every use conceivably made by a third party. The high school team could put the same logo on something like sippy cups or an eco-anti-gas-guzzler or anti-hunting promotional campaign, which would send confusing and ultimately negative messages to its intended customers. And it’s not commercially the best use of the mark, Chrysler can get a lot more money and goodwill via the licensing opportunities above, stadium naming rights, etc. And if it did this, how should it choose which school? If it licenses one school, other schools will ask for the same thing and any denial clearly would be a public relations nightmare that would eclipse any small localized benefit in goodwill gained by an association with community athletics.

Carol Shepherd
Arborlaw PLC

Mike says:

High School STEALING Dodge mascot.

You ask “why the hell Dodge would be upset about this?” Are you a moron? Its copyright infringement, of course they’re going to be upset about this. That’s the dumbest question Ive ever heard. They’ve paid millions just to make sure this kind of thing does’nt happen, and you think because its a highschool they should get away with it? Selling tons of swag at every game that Dodge created, eventually that all ads up. Message to Dodge: SUE THEIR ASS’ OFF DODGE!

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