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Y., U. put kibosh on illegal use of their names, logos

Official hangtag shows that a product has been properly licensed.
Official hangtag shows that a product has been properly licensed.
Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News

PROVO — The Cougars took it on the chin Saturday, while three local businesses took it in the pocketbook earlier in the week.

The businesses were trying to make a buck off the names and logos of the University of Utah and Brigham Young University but were stopped before they could rake in any significant profits, school officials said.

Two of the offenders, school officials said, were selling T-shirts, sweatshirts and hats with trademarked insignia that exploited the rivalry between the U. and BYU. The third was a restaurant chain showing copyrighted video images of both schools for its own promotion.

In all three cases, officials from both schools confronted the owners and halted the use of the school names and images. The vendors and restaurant did not have proper licenses from the schools.

Administrators declined to identify the vendors and restaurant chain, saying the cases are under investigation. Violations can sometimes result in fines. Merchandise can also be confiscated and destroyed.

College trademark licensing is serious business. Schools zealously protect their copyrighted trademarks — mottos, logos, colors and even typeface fonts. After schools register the trademarks, those wanting to use them for any purpose must get permission from the school. Most schools have a licensing procedure that vendors must follow in getting permission.

Schools have similar procedures in place for other copyrighted works such as books, music or taped images.

Part of the licensing process requires manufacturers to share wholesale profits with schools — 8 percent for Utah gear, 7.5 percent for BYU gear.

"The university uses that profit for student scholarships," said Shane Hinckley, the U. licensing administrator.

Hinckley said that in addition to generating profit for the U., registered trademarks protect the "name and brand" of the school.

"That's our livelihood," he said. "That's all we have to say who we are. We don't want it used derogatorily or in products we don't want to be associated with."

Among the images trademarked by the U. are "University of Utah," "Utah" used in certain contexts, "Utes," "Running Utes," Swoop" — the school's mascot, the interlocking Us, the drum and feather mark, the block U., and the school seal.

Among BYU's trademarks: "Brigham Young University," "BYU," "Brigham Young Cougars," and the "Y." in reference to BYU.

"The (word) 'Cougars' is a bit of a gray area," said Brett Eden, BYU's licensing official. "But if it has the letters 'BYU' (next to the cougar), then that's clearly us."

Hinckley and Eden are most concerned with products sold off campus and outside stadiums. Campus bookstores stock merchandise that has been properly licensed.

Hinckley and Eden often spend time on the lookout for merchandise at high-profile games such as Saturday's BYU-Utah game where entrepreneurs — legal and otherwise — cash in on school spirit. Hinckley was especially busy last football season, when Utah football was ranked in the nation's top 10.

Hinckley and Eden asked Georgia-based The Collegiate Licensing Co. to send "enforcers" to wander the outskirts of LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday to inspect gear. Enforcers randomly inspect other games, too.

"We license about 220 institutions, which includes bowls as well," said company spokesman Derek Hughes. "We don't represent everybody, but we represent the majority."

Hinckley and Eden said they can scan an area and quickly distinguish between licensed and unlicensed products because they are familiar with the ones they licensed. The inspectors from Georgia, however, look for the licensing hangtags required on approved merchandise.

The early intervention apparently had an impact as no violations were reported on Saturday.

The offending vendors often are simply unaware of the licensing process, Hinckley said. They are locals just trying to make an extra buck or two.

There are major counterfeiting rings, however, "people who are doing it maliciously with intent to make a (substantial) profit," Hinckley said. "Last year, we did have several people copying our marks and using them inappropriately. . . . We had bootleggers who flew in from the West Coast with some unlicensed product."