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The Chief, The Logo, and The Law


Sodboy13

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>>Man Who Created Chief Logo Wants It Back

(Urbana, IL) -- The man who helped create Chief Illiniwek's image says if the U of I doesn't want it, he'll gladly have it back. Graphic designer Jack Davis has sent a letter to the University of Illinois requesting the regain control of the image of a headdress-wearing Chief he created back in 1980. Davis' lawyers say he has a good legal claim to the logo. Lawyers for the university say they want more "clarification" on his claim. The University of Illinois voted earlier this year to end its use of the Chief and all images and references to him.

I'd love to be able to see the Chief logo still out in circulation, as I've always believed it to be a non-offensive depiction of American Indians. I really think U of I threw the baby out with the bathwater when they decided to scrap the logo along with the live-action mascot. So, who's standing on the firmer legal ground with this one?

And please, don't turn this into another "Chief or No Chief" thing.

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Taking into account that I have ZERO legal training or experience, and I don't even watch courtroom dramas on tv, I think the University of Illinois is on firmer ground. As a graphic designer, I would love to side with Davis, however, as long as UI has paid for and legally owns the mark, it is theirs to use or not use.

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It's U of I's to use, and frankly, they should. Great piece of art. I don't think it should default back to the artist. Though maybe U of I should sell it back to him.

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It came out a few weeks back that Davis was interested in getting it back. Is this even more recent? Is a lawsuit or something imminent now?

Anyways, the University definitely dropped the ball by just saying they'll retain the logo and not use it. They should have either given it back to Davis or turned it over to the Honor the Chief society.

I won't get into whether or not the stuff is racist, in this thread, but I will note that very few of the higherups who made these decisions generally have expressed that they don't really feel like it is. They didn't keep it around so long because they wanted to be percieved by some as racist. What they ultimately gave into was the NCAA's bullying policy and bullying politics from the Illinois Senate leader.

So stopping the use of the logo makes no sense to me. If they don't believe it's racist, and they have other means to keep the great logo in circulation and drop official ties to it to escape those policies (which the Honor the Chief society would have done), then I don't understand why they'd drop it all together.

What's also interesting is when this stuff may come into public domain. I'm not a copyright lawyer, but I think I've got a basic understanding of somethings. The logo itself will remain copyrighted for sometime. But the words "Chief" and "Chief Illiniwek" can only be trademarked. And trademark's expire after 2 (I think) years of non-usage (it's how Apple was able to call their new phone the iPhone even though another company had trademarked that name).

So since the University seems prepared to cut all ties to the Chief, at a certain point, people will be able to make Chief shirts and apparel all thier own. But I dunno.

It's all really strange at this point. It gets more and more final it seems, but theirs still a couple of lawsuits working their way through the system. These decisions have and will have many repurcusions. There's already a bill in the works to get the Board of Trustees elected by the citizens again, and should that go through, many Trustees will be serving their last term.

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I can understand the University not wanting to give the logo back to the artist. If they did, we could all prepare for an onslaught of unofficial merchandise featuring the Chief, since everyone would still be well aware of what he represents. Might even be retro-cool.

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I really think U of I threw the baby out with the bathwater when they decided to scrap the logo along with the live-action mascot

I generally agree with you, but I also understand what the University of Illinois is going through. They had no choice. They had to kowtow to the NCAA.

At least Illinois is able to keep the Fighting Illini name. You should see the mess that's going on with the University of North Dakota and the NCAA over the Fighting Sioux nickname. It's just awful.

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It came out a few weeks back that Davis was interested in getting it back. Is this even more recent? Is a lawsuit or something imminent now?

Anyways, the University definitely dropped the ball by just saying they'll retain the logo and not use it. They should have either given it back to Davis or turned it over to the Honor the Chief society.

I won't get into whether or not the stuff is racist, in this thread, but I will note that very few of the higherups who made these decisions generally have expressed that they don't really feel like it is. They didn't keep it around so long because they wanted to be percieved by some as racist. What they ultimately gave into was the NCAA's bullying policy and bullying politics from the Illinois Senate leader.

So stopping the use of the logo makes no sense to me. If they don't believe it's racist, and they have other means to keep the great logo in circulation and drop official ties to it to escape those policies (which the Honor the Chief society would have done), then I don't understand why they'd drop it all together.

What's also interesting is when this stuff may come into public domain. I'm not a copyright lawyer, but I think I've got a basic understanding of somethings. The logo itself will remain copyrighted for sometime. But the words "Chief" and "Chief Illiniwek" can only be trademarked. And trademark's expire after 2 (I think) years of non-usage (it's how Apple was able to call their new phone the iPhone even though another company had trademarked that name).

So since the University seems prepared to cut all ties to the Chief, at a certain point, people will be able to make Chief shirts and apparel all thier own. But I dunno.

It's all really strange at this point. It gets more and more final it seems, but theirs still a couple of lawsuits working their way through the system. These decisions have and will have many repurcusions. There's already a bill in the works to get the Board of Trustees elected by the citizens again, and should that go through, many Trustees will be serving their last term.

Wait...Emil Jones has done something besides just sit there being corrupt the last couple of years? Dangit, why can't we vote these idiots out. Don't get me started on Roddo; if there is a God, Rod's gonna stop a lightning bolt soon at the rate he's going claiming he's "on the side of the angels".

That said, I think I pointed out earlier that by retiring these things, you just open yourself up to massive bootlegging. Unfortunately, long term thought and planning seems to beyond anyone in a leadership position in the state.

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With my almost 2/3 of law school completed, I'd like to think I can share a little insight, but don't take my word for any of this stuff (legal disclaimer, of course ;) )

Ownership rights will depend on the contractual relationship when the logo was made. If he was an employee of the school, then Illinois would have the rights, and he couldn't do much about it. More than likely, though, he was an independent contractor and would have retained the rights. Hoewever, I am guessing that he sold these rights to the school in return for a nice chunk of change. Or maybe they had some deal where he would get x% of revenues per year. Once he gives up those rights, though, he is probably out of luck. The school then becomes the rightful legal owners of the logo and can do whatever they want with it.

The trademark protection lasts as long as it continues to be used commercially, and it would have to be shown that the owner made an affirmative effort to abandon it in order to lose protection. Simply not using it may or not be enough to meet this requirement.

Copyright protection is of the actual image itself, and that lasts for the life of the author, plus 70 years, so it will be quite some time before it enters the public domain.

On a side note, other countries like the UK have what is called "Moral Rights," which grants more rights to the author, even after ownership has been transferred. It is usually things like a painter having the right to complain if his work is displayed next to an offensive painting, or situations like that. He might have more a claim in the UK if he could say that his work is being diminshed by Illinois no longer using it.

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I saw a story about this guy on the Champaign news. He designed the logo right after he graduated from the U of I. If I remember correctly he only got $200 for the Chief logo. At the time the school was considering giving it back to him if they decided to stop using it. Hopefully they will give it back to him.

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The trademark protection lasts as long as it continues to be used commercially, and it would have to be shown that the owner made an affirmative effort to abandon it in order to lose protection. Simply not using it may or not be enough to meet this requirement.

Wouldn't passing an official act to stop the usage of the "Chief" and "Chief Illiniwek" names as they relate to the University (I'm looking for the official wording...) be considered an affirmative effort to abandon those trademarks? Or do you think the fact that it would still be used in an around campus might somehow protect it or something? Or maybe if they do anything official about the history. I dunno. You're the 2/3's lawyer, lol.

Here we go...

http://www.uillinois.edu/trustees/agenda/M...0Resolution.pdf

3. THAT the Board hereby directs the immediate conclusion

to the use of Native American imagery as the symbol of

the University of Illinois and its intercollegiate athletics

along with the related regalia, logo, and the names ?Chief

Illiniwek? and ?Chief,?...

I dunno if that would be considered the affirmative effort needed or not.

I really think U of I threw the baby out with the bathwater when they decided to scrap the logo along with the live-action mascot

I generally agree with you, but I also understand what the University of Illinois is going through. They had no choice. They had to kowtow to the NCAA.

At least Illinois is able to keep the Fighting Illini name. You should see the mess that's going on with the University of North Dakota and the NCAA over the Fighting Sioux nickname. It's just awful.

Actually, they could have done what the UND did do. UND showed some balls, and I respect them greatly for their lawsuit. My great school acted like cowards who will succumb to bullying. The NCAA really doesn't have the right to pass and enforce the act they did, and I'm quite sure that could be proved in court.

The two current portrayers of the Chief (their is an assistant) filed a lawsuit for an injunction against the NCAA and the University to prevent the University from passing a resolution that would cave to the NCAA. The judge denied the injunction saying the University has the right to do as it wishes and could fight if it wanted to, but also practically said that there'd be one hell of a case against the NCAA if the University actually would have pursued it.

The two portrayers invited the University to join their lawsuit against the NCAA...not even financially, just in name and legal advisory, and the cowardly Board of Trustees rejected the invitation.

One trustee gets it. All the rest shame a great University.

Bringing it back towards the topic...I wonder what Davis would do with the logo if he got it.

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Wait...Emil Jones has done something besides just sit there being corrupt the last couple of years?

Not that I'm aware of. Did I miss something? I'm sure you're as well aware as I am how deeply in bed he is with the power companies. No, no, really, jacking up electric bills by 200% and engaging in misleading business practices is just fine.

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The tricky thing about abandoned trademarks is that it very rarely happens. True, they have said they will stop using it, but what is preventing them from changing their minds in 2 years and saying they want to use it again? Also, if it is abandoned, it would probably just go into the public domain, not necessarily back to the original owner without some kind of contract agreement.

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The tricky thing about abandoned trademarks is that it very rarely happens. True, they have said they will stop using it, but what is preventing them from changing their minds in 2 years and saying they want to use it again? Also, if it is abandoned, it would probably just go into the public domain, not necessarily back to the original owner without some kind of contract agreement.

Oh, definitely. I'm just talking about the words "Chief" and "Chief Illiniwek" anyways. No designer has a claim on them. I'm just saying that if the University stops their use of them and issues an official declaration that they're going to (which they have), I'm not sure there's anything to stop anyone from selling shirts with those words.

The logo is different. I'm betting the designer can't win this case. He claims he sold it for $210 with the declaration that it had to be the logo of the athletic departemt. If that's true, he may have a claim, but he'll be hard pressed to prove that.

And if he doesn't get it, the University will hold the rights for a LONG time regardless of whether they use it. I know that much about copyrights.

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