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Penn State goes after Buna, Texas HS

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Old logo:

OLDLOGO072010-vi.jpg

New logo:

NEWLOGO0720101-vi.jpg

Story:

When Buna ISD received a letter and a phone call from Penn State, the topic had nothing to do with the Nittany Lions trying to find the next star linebacker. Instead, it was taking aim at the district's cougar logo.

The Jasper County school district has been using and marketing the same image as Penn State's trademarked logo for almost 10 years. Penn State and the Collegiate Licensing Company, an organization that markets and defends collegiate image rights, learned about Buna's use of the logo a few months ago and sent the school a cease and desist letter.

"It was very surprising when they contacted us," Buna athletic director Bradley Morgan said. "Then you think someone turned you in. I don't think that is what happened, but I think they have people that scan websites."

'CLC legal counsel Jim Aronowitz said the organization learns about illegal logo usage from various sources.

"There are a lot of eyes and ears out there," Aronowitz said from his Atlanta office. "What they see and hear can make its way back to us."

While it's not a popular move for a big institution like Penn State to take on tiny Buna ISD, it's a necessity to defend trademark rights, experts contend.

"The owner of a trademark does need to police it against unauthorized uses so when they take on other people who might be more of a threat, there is precedent," said Greg Carr, a Dallas-based intellectual property attorney. "So it's like counterfeit money. If you don't stop it from being distributed, the money that is real will be devalued. These schools have a Catch-22. They may not want to be getting the bad press of taking on a local high school, but they might not have any other choice from a business standpoint."

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The new logo is decent at best, but I agree that it is an upgrade over the Penn Stat logo. I just noticed that the lion looks very sad.

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I like how the athletic director's first thought was "someone turned us in".

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Penn State ought to consider using the high school's logo instead. Hell, I'd take this logo over their current one:

2572.gif

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The white outline around the head should definitely join with the oval.

Good on Penn State. Protect your trademark rights, or lose 'em, I'd say.

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While I am all for the protection of logos and identities, what is the harm here?

I thought there was kind of an understanding between pros, colleges, and youth organizations to allow them to use logos without fear of reprisals. I could completely understand Penn State going after the "Podunk University Nittany Cougarz" if they had decided to use their logo, or the "Wyoming eXtreme Cats" of the International Indoor Rodeo Football Federation. But this is a high school. Maybe I just don't get it, but it seems to me that if anything, this might make some people more interested in Penn State for whatever reason.

Just my 2 pennies.

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The point is that this high school has been profiting off of Penn State's trademarked logo for almost ten years. They're lucky all they got was a cease and desist letter. If somebody else made money selling my illustrations as their own, you'd better bet your sweet @$$ I'd sue the pants off 'em.

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While I am all for the protection of logos and identities, what is the harm here?

I thought there was kind of an understanding between pros, colleges, and youth organizations to allow them to use logos without fear of reprisals. I could completely understand Penn State going after the "Podunk University Nittany Cougarz" if they had decided to use their logo, or the "Wyoming eXtreme Cats" of the International Indoor Rodeo Football Federation. But this is a high school. Maybe I just don't get it, but it seems to me that if anything, this might make some people more interested in Penn State for whatever reason.

Just my 2 pennies.

That's for sure. The main reason for this is already mentioned in this thread. The other reasons (oh, like setting an example for the kids you're trying to teach that it's OK to steal someone else's property as long as it's not physical) are too numerous to get in to here. There are plenty of other threads for that.

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While I am all for the protection of logos and identities, what is the harm here?

I thought there was kind of an understanding between pros, colleges, and youth organizations to allow them to use logos without fear of reprisals. I could completely understand Penn State going after the "Podunk University Nittany Cougarz" if they had decided to use their logo, or the "Wyoming eXtreme Cats" of the International Indoor Rodeo Football Federation. But this is a high school. Maybe I just don't get it, but it seems to me that if anything, this might make some people more interested in Penn State for whatever reason.

Just my 2 pennies.

It's just like Jigga said. Protect your trademarks, or lose them. And even if it's small potatoes, districts and schools are making money from those graphics on their merchandise.

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Strangely, I think Mercury Cougar before I think of Penn State. The inner white oval washes out a lot of the similarity. I do definitely see the issue of a white cougar head superimposed on a navy oval though.

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Strangely, I think Mercury Cougar before I think of Penn State. The inner white oval washes out a lot of the similarity. I do definitely see the issue of a white cougar head superimposed on a navy oval though.

I think you misunderstand... the high school was using the Penn State logo, and then switched to the new logo in response to the cease and desist.

While I am all for the protection of logos and identities, what is the harm here?

I thought there was kind of an understanding between pros, colleges, and youth organizations to allow them to use logos without fear of reprisals. I could completely understand Penn State going after the "Podunk University Nittany Cougarz" if they had decided to use their logo, or the "Wyoming eXtreme Cats" of the International Indoor Rodeo Football Federation. But this is a high school. Maybe I just don't get it, but it seems to me that if anything, this might make some people more interested in Penn State for whatever reason.

Just my 2 pennies.

It's just like Jigga said. Protect your trademarks, or lose them. And even if it's small potatoes, districts and schools are making money from those graphics on their merchandise.

Yep, in trademark law, the doctrine of laches (sleeping on your rights) behaves like an equitable statue of limitations. You snooze, you lose.

I don't think Penn State cares that some high school is making money off their trademark, they're concerned that they will loose their rights in that trademark. The trademark itself is much more valuable than the damages they'd get from the trademark infringement case.

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While I am all for the protection of logos and identities, what is the harm here?

I thought there was kind of an understanding between pros, colleges, and youth organizations to allow them to use logos without fear of reprisals. I could completely understand Penn State going after the "Podunk University Nittany Cougarz" if they had decided to use their logo, or the "Wyoming eXtreme Cats" of the International Indoor Rodeo Football Federation. But this is a high school. Maybe I just don't get it, but it seems to me that if anything, this might make some people more interested in Penn State for whatever reason.

Just my 2 pennies.

That's for sure. The main reason for this is already mentioned in this thread. The other reasons (oh, like setting an example for the kids you're trying to teach that it's OK to steal someone else's property as long as it's not physical) are too numerous to get in to here. There are plenty of other threads for that.

You would think someone that had been a member of this site for 15 minutes, let alone 4 1/2 years, would know this already. Yet every single time an infringement case comes up, we get the same tired, "it's just a high school" argument. I guess I just don't get how someone doesn't get it. :P

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Unfortunately, there are a lot of cases where the high schools and other organizations may be taking the brunt of the litigation, when the fault should lie with the uniform or equipment supplier. I've seen many uniform/equipment suppliers that use well-known logos as part of their stock catalogs, and it's implied that these logos are fair game to be used in other applications.

My friend is the athletic director at a local high school. The team nickname is the Vikings. They use Minnesota's Viking Head logo. It's even carved into a granite sign at the front of the school. The school started using the logo because it was made available to them years ago from a uniform supplier.

Look at bulldog logos, for example. I'm sure I've seen Georgia and Fresno State's bulldog logos available for use. Same as the Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles.

Is it right? Unless the teams gave permission, then no. But let's not always fault the schools. I know ignorance of the law is no excuse, but if the supplier gives no indication that the copyrights are not theirs to begin with, it's tough to blame the buyer.

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In that case, I wouldn't let the school off the hook, I would blame the vendor as well.

More reason for schools to protect their trademarks - enough articles like these, and school administrators might take a look at what they're using to see if they can possibly own it.

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Strangely, I think Mercury Cougar before I think of Penn State. The inner white oval washes out a lot of the similarity. I do definitely see the issue of a white cougar head superimposed on a navy oval though.

With the new one. The old one (PSU) looks nothing like Mercury. The Thundercats cartoon ripped off the Mercury Cougar though!

1386991547_3e674edb68.jpg

186886932_1ebf2c1905.jpg

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While I am all for the protection of logos and identities, what is the harm here?

I thought there was kind of an understanding between pros, colleges, and youth organizations to allow them to use logos without fear of reprisals. I could completely understand Penn State going after the "Podunk University Nittany Cougarz" if they had decided to use their logo, or the "Wyoming eXtreme Cats" of the International Indoor Rodeo Football Federation. But this is a high school. Maybe I just don't get it, but it seems to me that if anything, this might make some people more interested in Penn State for whatever reason.

Just my 2 pennies.

That's for sure. The main reason for this is already mentioned in this thread. The other reasons (oh, like setting an example for the kids you're trying to teach that it's OK to steal someone else's property as long as it's not physical) are too numerous to get in to here. There are plenty of other threads for that.

You would think someone that had been a member of this site for 15 minutes, let alone 4 1/2 years, would know this already. Yet every single time an infringement case comes up, we get the same tired, "it's just a high school" argument. I guess I just don't get how someone doesn't get it. :P

I'm not an artist. At least in the sense that most of the folks here are (I'm a photographer). I don't check every thread, and I'm not up on infringement law. I see the point of protecting your mark. My HS used Pat Patriot on our football helmets for years, and on T-shirts, etc. This was back when New England was still using this mark on their helmets as well. Maybe that's where my bias comes from, I don't know. Do you honestly think Joe Public thinks of using a logo like it was used as "stealing someone else's property"? I understand that it IS, I'm just talking about perception.

If anyone here is using unlicensed software, or has ever downloaded an MP3 from anywhere other than iTunes or the like has "stolen someone else's property." When you first started, did you use or try to copy or slightly modify a professionally designed logo for a Fantasy team? You stole. Bootlegged a movie off of Limewire. Yep, stole. The venue may be more public, but it doesn't change the fact.

I wasn't trying to say "it's just a high school, no big deal" in the sense that they shouldn't pay if they are supposed to. I just thought there was some sort of "fair use" (if that's the term) for amateur, non-collegiate or non-professional programs.

No offense was intended, and I'm probably not as dumb as I originally came off, lol.

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This is just another case of there being no common sense and too many lawyers in the world. Part of the curse of sports marketing.

That being said, can't they use it as long as they are not making money off of it? If the football team has it on their helmets but it is not sold on a shirt to students, isn't that ok? In my son's T-Ball league, all teams wore Tampa Bay Rays caps (he thought the TB was for T-Ball).

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I'm not sure that's correct, either. Making money off a stolen logo just compounds the problem, but I think that the owner must exercise control, whether the thief is making a profit or not. Perhaps one of our legally-trained colleagues can assist.

If anyone here is using unlicensed software, or has ever downloaded an MP3 from anywhere other than iTunes or the like has "stolen someone else's property." When you first started, did you use or try to copy or slightly modify a professionally designed logo for a Fantasy team? You stole. Bootlegged a movie off of Limewire. Yep, stole. The venue may be more public, but it doesn't change the fact.

In most of the cases you mention, you're correct. But what's your point? Many of us who criticize high schools for stealing logos somehow manage to refrain from bootlegging movies and music.

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While I am all for the protection of logos and identities, what is the harm here?

I thought there was kind of an understanding between pros, colleges, and youth organizations to allow them to use logos without fear of reprisals. I could completely understand Penn State going after the "Podunk University Nittany Cougarz" if they had decided to use their logo, or the "Wyoming eXtreme Cats" of the International Indoor Rodeo Football Federation. But this is a high school. Maybe I just don't get it, but it seems to me that if anything, this might make some people more interested in Penn State for whatever reason.

Just my 2 pennies.

My high school got a similar request from Iowa back in, I wanna say, 2000 or 2001 because we used the Hawkeye logo as our main logo (Hawks). For a year or so, the teams didn't really have a logo, and the football team just wore solid blue helmets.

And there's also a school near my hometown that uses the same Penn State logo the HS in Texas did. Wonder if they'll get a cease-and-desist notice in the future?

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Wisconsin did the same thing with the Motion W. Even though my high school's W was a little different (the middle "prong thing" of the W was a point, not a flat bar like Wisconsin's), we still had to get rid of it. I think it's dumb, but rules are rules.

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