Thursday, March 8, 2007

Toto, are we still in Kansas?

Two Kansas related trademark news stories.

Number 1, the Hells Angels have sued a Kansas couple for trademark infringement. According to the lawsuit, the couple was selling patches on eBay emblazoned with an image similar to the Hells Angels federally registered "death head" mark.

Number 2, the University of Kansas, through the Collegiate Licensing Company, sued for printing shirts that reference the University of Kansas. According to Associate AD Jim Marchiony, "many of the shirts attach themselves to the University and are in poor taste." Such as one shirt containing the phrase "Muck Fizzou." Mizzou, being a rival of KU, just switch the "M" and the "F," and you get the point.

In an apparent response to the lawsuit, Joe-College put the following on it's website, in bold no less:


What? "Exhibit A your honor ..."

Further, Joe-College has a Do not be confused page, which says:

  • Nothing you are looking at was made by the University of Kansas
  • Nothing you are looking at originated with the University of Kansas
  • Nothing you are looking at was made for the University of Kansas
  • Nothing you are looking at was authorized or licensed by the University of Kansas
  • No part of the proceeds of the sale of these items will go to, or benefit the University of Kansas
  • All of the above is true for the Collegiate Licensing Company, and for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and for the NFL, and MLB, and the NBA, and the NHL, and for every other college, university, and professional sports franchise that exists anywhere that sells any kind of clothing

Smack! What are these guys thinking. Oh, they're not. Check out the What Happens in Lawrence Stays in Lawrence shirt. Vegas Baby!

UPDATE: It seems the editorial staff of the KU student newspaper sides with Joe-College.

Trademark law is a malleable field within the developing world of intellectual property, and the University would be wise to not rush into any unnecessary action in this still evolving area. The Jayhawk logo, University name and obvious athletic references are trademarks worth protecting. But the foray into the distasteful shelves of comes dangerously close to infringing upon free market practice by private vendors.

Whoa! Just spilled my drink.

UPDATE 2: Forgive me, but it looks like the editorial staff is engaging in a bit of point/counterpoint.

Yes the shirts at are unlicensed, but the shirts are inextricably linked to the University because of their content. For every person at the game or at home watching that knows the shirts aren’t associated with the University, there’s another person that thinks the two are one in the same. Bill Skepnek, attorney for, was quoted in Tuesday’s Kansan as saying “Trademark law is not intended to protect a fool,” but do we really want our image in the hands of all those “fools” that will create negative associations between the two? Certainly not. Leaving the University’s image in the hands of all those inevitable “fools” is silly.

UPDATE 3: Maybe with these college stutent's new found attention to trademark law, maybe we can get as romantic as copyright law.

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