by Travis Normand
When I saw this story on August 23, I immediately thought “when will the big schools ever learn?”
The University of Alabama is not the only school to protect its logos and trademarks by taking (or threatening to take) legal action against local retailers. Such a practice is necessary when a logo or trademark is threatened; or when it is used in such a way that could reflect poorly on the university. However, such protection practices need to be balanced against the idea that fans are going to want to use school logos on their personal and business related ventures. While not all instances can go unchecked, the universities need to realize that this can be a good thing.
To the credit of Alabama, they apologized to the local baker who received a cease-and-desist letter for hand-decorating her cakes and cookies with Alabama logos and images.
“UA has talked to Ms. (Mary) Cesar and has apologized for the letter, which is not consistent with the protocol we normally follow for local vendors on trademark issues,” said a statement released Thursday afternoon by Deborah M. Lane, UA assistant vice president for university relations.
“We have assured Ms. Cesar that we will work with her to resolve this issue quickly and amicably so that she can continue to produce pastries that bear the university’s marks. We will also make sure that everyone involved in the licensing process is fully aware of UA’s long-standing communications practices and concerns when dealing with local merchants.”
Further, it should be pointed out that the cease-and-desist letter actually came from the Collegiate Licensing Co. in Atlanta. The University of Alabama is represented by the Collegiate Licensing Co. regarding the licensing of UA trademarks and logos on commercial products.
While the facts of this situation seem to indicate a simple misunderstanding between UA, CLC, and a local merchant — one must realize that things like this don’t always work out so easily (see below).
Recently, a lawsuit initiated by the University of Alabama against artist/painter Daniel Moore was decided by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (Federal Court). The University of Alabama was trying to stop Moore from painting pictures of critical moments from Alabama football games. While I don’t know the entire history between Mr. Moore and Alabama, I am guessing that the University would say Mr. Moore doesn’t fall into the “local merchants” category like the baker mentioned above.
You can read the 11th Circuit opinion that was issued in June 2012 (in favor of Mr. Daniel Moore) here.
Article: Artist’s free speech trumps Bama trademark limitations