by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
high schools, logos, trademark, universities

Colleges Cracking Down On High Schools Using Their Logos

from the logo-wars dept

We recently had a story of a high school caught with a logo copied from the Dodge Ram logo. Apparently, this idea of high schools copying their logos is hardly an isolated instance. For decades, it's been commonplace for high schools to just copy the logos of various colleges (or, at least use them for very close "inspiration"), but lately colleges have started cracking down on this practice, threatening high schools, or even demanding payment. This is really the latest result of a trend we've noted in the past, where universities and colleges have taken trademarks to a new level after some court rulings suggested exclusive rights in college logos existed. Of course, it seems a bit silly. It's not as if anyone's going to buy a high school t-shirt instead of the college shirt, but it seems like these universities and colleges want to be aggressive with their trademark efforts. At least some appear to have very reasonable licensing programs. Apparently KSU lets anyone use their logo for $1 every two years -- but does put some restrictions on it, such as not letting you sell t-shirts with the inspired logo unless they use a KSU-connected vendor, who gives a percentage to the university.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2010 @ 3:30am

    Not entirely sure there's a problem here. There is a difference between fair use and blatantly copying another's work and putting it on items which are then sold for profit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Mikkel Paulson (profile), Nov 24th, 2010 @ 3:32am

    Trademark law and the enforcing thereof makes sense to me. Unlike other info laws, trademark serves to protect the consumer as much as the producer. You can only make an informed purchase if you have reasonable assurances that the product you're buying was made by the company whose logo is on the box. Obviously that doesn't apply to universities, but I thought the point of school identity was to create some sort of patriotic association with the brand, sports teams, and so forth. Ripping off someone else's logo isn't the best way to do that. So make your own, even if means letting one of the students loose with Illustrator.

    Mikkel Paulson
    Pirate Party of Canada

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2010 @ 3:58am


    I think this would be a fun thing for high schools to do. You have your own mascot, and then you let the students do a redesign and then vote on the logo every few years when it's time to replace jerseys and football helmets.

    That said, I don't think there's much overlap between people buying high school and college gear. I would end all donations to my college if I found out they were suing a high school for trademark infringement.

    Since you can get a licensed college logo on extremely cheap merchandise, I can't accept that the logo provides any consumer protection. And due to that, it doesn't seem like a very strong trademark issue to me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Paul Benjamin, Nov 24th, 2010 @ 4:29am

    KSU Logo

    The interesting thing about the KSU Wildcat logo is that it is not owned by KSU. It is owned by the former Athletic Director. The University only gets the recognition the old AD gets the money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Big Al, Nov 24th, 2010 @ 4:30am


    If the logos are very similar, would your average 'moron in a hurry' assume some affiliation between the college and the high school?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2010 @ 7:05am

    Welcome to the age of Control.
    I remember hanging around the local gas station / garage and watching the mechanics fix the cars and it was so cool being in the garage with all the tools and the older guys would teach me stuff about garages and cars. My son can't do that because the insurance company says no one allowed. Why? None of us ever got hurt there.
    I remember when we all sang 'Happy Birthday' in public. I remember when there was music in the malls. I remember when you could walk into a club and hear covers.
    Now it's all about ownership.
    Go to a restaurant for a birthday and you don't even recognize what they sang. How can my party sing along? Now we don't go to restaurants to celebrate any birthdays. We now hide out in our homes and only invite relatives that we can trust.
    Then we sing a pirated copy of "HAPPY BIRTHDAY"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    lux (profile), Nov 24th, 2010 @ 8:37am


    " Of course, it seems a bit silly. It's not as if anyone's going to buy a high school t-shirt instead of the college shirt"

    Do you really think they are strictly concerned with the sale of t-shirts? Wouldn't you expect they'd be more concerned about the image the high school being conveyed, which might impact the decision of future applicants at the College, as oppose to the sale of a few $20 shirts? No? Okay.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2010 @ 9:45am

    Growing up in the 80s/90s, our high school's logo was a blatant, re-colored rip-off of the Seattle Seahawks, while our rival's was spot-on the Minnesota Vikings logo. I just assumed this was commonplace in the public education system...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Jake, Nov 27th, 2010 @ 8:19pm

    Re: But...

    Quite possibly, but I cannot for the life of me think how this causes enough harm to justify hiring a lawyer; worst-case scenario is a few people assuming this means the school shares some facilities with the college. If they're talking up a nonexistent affiliation in their prospectus that would be a different matter, but I can't honestly see anyone's decision on where to go to college -or send their kids to school- being made solely on the basis of a logo on a t-shirt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Sunshine, Nov 28th, 2010 @ 1:42am

    Logo Stealing

    My high school encourages recoloring universities' and other high schools' logos as part of a mandatory freshmen computer class. Our blatant "just take a picture off of Google"-ing greatly bothers me, so I do my best to use stock photos when I can. In the case of that project, I found a very pretty free tattoo design of our team "mascot" and colored that. Everyone seems to see fair use as another useless thing shoved down our throats next to MLA in English class. I don't want my work to be taken and recolored (even if it isn't 100% law-breaking in that case), so I'm not about to do it to others.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Jerry Leichter, Nov 28th, 2010 @ 7:05am

    This made the front page of of Saturday's NY Times -

    And what's behind this sudden discovery? The Times cites the greatly increased visibility of high school logos due to the Internet. But while they mention, and include quotes from people at, various organizations like "Collegiate Licensing Company, which represents about 160 colleges and universities" and "International Licensing Industry Merchandisersí Association" and "Licensing Resource Group" and "Licensing Resource Group", they somehow fail to note how *the very existence of organizations that make their money from creating disputes over the use of logos* just, possibly, might play a role in ... the growing number of such disputes.

    Old saying: "When there's one lawyer in town, he starves; when there are two, they both get rich."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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