UT aims to protect trademarks to keep brand strong


Tower Carwash and its tower replica is one of several companies the University of Texas has accused of a trademark violation. 

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

The University’s longhorn, burnt orange and tower are stolen on occasion, but its trademark office works to take them back.

Jered Matthysse, senior associate for Pirkey Barber PLLC, a law firm contracted by the University to enforce its trademarks, said trademark violations happen more often in the marketplace than on campus, by companies purposefully or accidentally associating themselves with the University.

“They’re using the University’s trademarks to trade off the University’s goodwill,” Matthysse said. “The most important aspect is to protect the value of the trademark, considering UT-Austin makes the most money of royalties from their licensing program than any school in the country.”

Craig Westemeier, UT’s trademark and licensing associate director, said legal action is almost never taken against student organizations that mistakenly use a University trademark. Student organizations can only use UT trademarks if the group is sponsored by the University, which can cause confusion among students. 

“Sometimes it’s just pure enthusiasm and passion for the University, and people think they can use it and we explain why we have to protect the mark,” Westemeier said. “With registered organizations usually they will submit a design, and we will work to direct them to make changes to their image or graphic so they are within the rules and policies.”

Westemeier said issues involving student organization merchandise or logos are usually found and stopped when organizations submit ideas for approval by the Dean of Students Office and the Office of Trademark Licensing.

“There is a lot of turnover in student organizations, so there is not institutional knowledge of what the rules are about what they can put on T-shirts or use in a logo,” Westemeier said.

Matthysse said not all instances of trademark violations are about merchandise. In May 2012, a federal court ruled in favor of the University in a suit against Tower Car Wash, a Cedar Park business with a replica of the campus tower at its locations.

Student Government vice president Ugeo Williams said SG will work with Westemeier to make information of the University’s trademarks accessible to students. However, Williams said he would like to make it possible for more students to have access to the trademarks.

“A lot of students just want to express that they are a part of the University, and not all organizations can,” Williams said. “We want to help make things more clear when students are registering their organizations for the next year, what they should and shouldn’t do.”

Westemeier said the trademark office is currently creating a website to make information more clear to student and faculty, and to explain the rules and help prevent potential infringements.