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University warns peddlers of unlicensed merchandise

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Riley Packer, 6, of Sandy, checks out a University of Utah T-shirt for sale at the Utah Red Zone store in Sandy on Nov. 1, 2010.

Riley Packer, 6, of Sandy, checks out a University of Utah T-shirt for sale at the Utah Red Zone store in Sandy on Nov. 1, 2010.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The U. is telling Ute fans: don't be a fake.

In advance of the University of Utah's first Pac-12 home game against the University of Washington Saturday, U. officials warn they will crack down on those peddling unlicensed and unauthorized U. gear.

"Because of the move to the Pac-12, we've definitely seen an increased interest in those making the move to make money," Brett Eden, licensing and marketing director for the U., said Thursday. "Today alone we sent out 12 cease and desist letters."

The issue is that like every university, the U. owns the trademark to its name and logos. The U.'s clothing, hats and other merchandise are officially licensed through the Collegiate Licensing Company.

"The royalties we generate go back to the university for student scholarships," Eden said. "We encourage all fans to 'look for the label' in order to ensure that the merchandise they buy is officially licensed."

Some knock-off clothing can be pretty tacky, too.

"Some of those products can be in many cases pretty vulgar and unnecessary," espousing hate against the opposing team, Eden said. "That's not who we want to be."

Producers of knock-off merchandise have mostly taken to the Internet, selling their goods on fan sites or online auction sites. Others brave selling their wares outside of Rice Eccles Stadium. The U. has teamed up with the Salt Lake Police Department, which will have several undercover officers working this season's crowds.

Eden said during the U.'s match against Texas Christian University last year, the U. had five crews working the crowds for eight hours looking for rogue vendors.

According to the CLC, the retail market for collegiate-licensed products is estimated at $4.3 billion. Last year more than 130 criminal and civil actions were taken against counterfeiters resulting in the seizure of more than 60,000 pieces of merchandise estimated at $1 million in value.

"We don't know what the Pac-12 will bring," Eden said. He estimated that lost revenue, combined with legal fees, could cost the U. hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But U. officials say they are willing to work with anyone who wants to design fan shirts of their own. "They can work with us to get a license," Eden said. One fan in Michigan contacted the U. with a shirt design, which is now available at the U.'s bookstore.

Anyone interested in licensing fan items can contact the U.'s licensing and marketing department at 801-581-8298.

Getting caught selling unauthorized clothing can result in a misdemeanor charge and civil legal action.

E-mail: gfattah@desnews.com