In sports, high school and youth teams often use logos that are strikingly similar to those of major college and professional teams. From time to time, a story will surface involving a college or professional team requesting that a youth team discontinue the use of the offending logo. Although the trademark infringement is often clear, the public relations aspect can be problematic for the owner of the mark. Such a situation recently took place in Connecticut, involving the University of Connecticut and The Morgan School in Clinton, Conn.
The Morgan School uses a husky as its athletic logo, similar to the husky made famous by UConn. According to Stan Fisher of the New Haven Register, UConn was made aware of the potential trademark infringement by an out-of-town parent who attended a game at The Morgan School.
In Fisher’s article, First Selectman William Fritz is quoted and he expresses a common sentiment in these matters – that everybody is doing it:
Fritz believes that high school athletic teams historically have made a practice of using graphics that recall those of professional or college teams. For instance, a sticker often seen on Guilford vehicles bears a “G” in the same typeface as used by the Green Bay Packers in their logo, but in the Guilford colors.
So why is UConn making an issue with The Morgan School’s use of the logo? One reason can be found in trademark law. The owner of a trademark must make efforts to prevent unauthorized use of its mark. If an owner makes no efforts to protects its mark, the mark may lose its significance as a trademark and it could be considered abandoned.
To protect its mark, however, UConn is not required to prevent The Morgan School from using it. UConn and the school could enter in a licensing agreement for the use of the logo, or reach an agreement on The Morgan School’s use of its logo. For example, it might be reasonable that The Morgan School only use the logo when accompanied by the name of the school.
Ultimately, it appears that UConn used a soft touch and agreed to work with The Morgan School. No immediate action is required of The Morgan School, but when the school replaces uniforms, turf fields, and gymnasium floors, UConn expects it to use a new logo. Also of note, UConn has not taken issue with schools use of the name “Huskies.” (For more, see Fay Abrahamsson’s article on Clinton Patch).