To protect the integrity of its trademark Longhorn logo, the University made a Kansas high school alter its own.
The schools have been communicating for several months and administrators at Gardner Edgerton High School are now in the transition process of removing the logo from school property.
“They were very cooperative and wanted to understand,” said assistant athletics director Craig Westemeier, who oversees the Office of Trademark Licensing. “We took the tact of educating them on our marks and our reasons for having to protect them.”
The high school’s new logo is more detailed than its previous one and now includes the full body of an ox instead of just its face. Calls to the school were not returned as of press time on Monday.
“We gave them time to change it on their field and their uniforms, as well as other areas,” Westemeier said. “We have worked with them so we could cut a deal to allow them to transition out of the use of the logo.”
Westemeier said although making a high school in Kansas change its mascot seems unnecessary, it is the responsibility of the owner to protect their trademark.
“We continually are out protecting the mark and educating people on the need for us to do that,” he said. “That is part of owning a trademark — you have to be out there protecting the mark and to maintain its integrity and its value and, more importantly, the legal rights to it.”
In recent years, UT has seen an increase in the number of trademark violations, Westemeier said.
“With the growth and popularity of the University brand as well as the Internet, we have seen additional issues surrounding infringement and dilution of the marks,” he said.
A recent trend shows that U.S. colleges have been instructing high schools across the nation that they cannot copy their logos, according to a Nov. 26 New York Times article.
Law professor Robert Bone said that universities protect their brands especially against people who make their own UT gear without first getting permission to use the logo.
“The revenues from merchandise licensing can be very substantial for a large and well-known university like UT,” Bone said. “From what I can tell, however, the Kansas case is not about merchandising.”
Instead, he said trademark owners with strong brands want to maintain its exclusivity.
“Many trademark owners fear that if they don’t police unauthorized uses of their marks aggressively and uniformly, they will risk losing their rights in the mark,” Bone said. “Companies that invest a lot in building a brand don’t want to take any risks.”
Austin trademark lawyer Cristi Trusler said UT has the right and duty to exclude others from using their trademark
“Because UT has had problems in the past with people trying to copy their mark, they’re probably trying to take a pretty aggressive approach,” Trusler said.