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Badger Badger Badger Badger

Those intellectual property zealots at the University of Wisconsin are at it again. This time, Badgermania includes the claim that Wisconsin owns the letter “W.”

Well, not really, but putting it that way sure spices up the post. But while Wisconsin’s claim isn’t as over-the-top as the lawsuit that argues that the TV show “Heroes” falsely makes the In-Sink-Erator out to be dangerous , the university is treading on some thin trademark ice. I guess that there are times when I’m likely to confuse purple and gold with red and white, but this isn’t one of them. So the claim boils down to the letterforms, which are similar but not identical.

I don’t know if there is a trademark law test for college insignias, so I’ll propose one: The junior use of a senior mark in college and high school athletics is likely to cause confusion if a reasonable fan would think that the junior user is part of the senior’s athletic program. In short, does the logo of the Waukee Warriors make the school look like the JV version of the Wisconsin Badgers?

I don’t think so.

Here’s a question that bugs me about the In-Sink-Erator case:

The plaintiff (Emerson) claims that unauthorized use of the mark “tarnishes” it. Does the tarnishment arise from the fact that the device mangles someone’s hand — that is, from the inference that the In-Sink-Erator is dangerous? Or does the tarnishment arise from the fact that the person in question recovers miraculously — that is, from the inteference that the In-Sink-Erator is not, in fact, dangerous?

Just wondering.

10 thoughts on “Badger Badger Badger Badger”

  1. There are only a finite number of ways to spell “Wisconsin” so I’d suggest that “W” would be generic for schools in Wisconsin based on existing trademark law. Color and font can create unique “W”‘s but the letter itself would be generic.

    As someone from Illinois, however, I would be happy to offer some other nicknames Wisconsinites could use.

  2. As a Wisconsinite there are many names we have for IL natives as well. Unfortunately they are generic four letter words with no chance of being trademarked:)

  3. Haha. I believe I have heard most of them, too. I have a soft spot of acronyms. It’s sentimental, but I think they’re clever. 🙂

  4. The helmet logos for the University of Georgia Bulldogs and the Green Bay Packers are identical, except that Georgia is red and blue while Green Bay is green and gold. My own high school team, the John Glenn (Norwalk, Ca.) Eagles used a helmet with exactly the same design, but no one ever confused us with either. An awful lot of high schools use designs similar to those of colleges or pro teams they admire. The Chicago Bears’ “C,” the Clemson Tigers’ paw print, the Rams’ horns, are used (usually in different colors) by hundreds of teams.

  5. Coming over from a graphic design blog that linked me up with (which in turn got me here)…I was reading an article that brought up the same point Frank Snyder makes…and there are some colleges/universites who license out their logo (for instance Miami’s split U design is licensed to a High School Coach who was coached by current Miami Head Coach Larry Coker). It all comes down to the money. If you trademark something (yes even a LETTER), it gives you exclusive rights to profit from it. If too many other people are using similar designs, such as the famous (and very generic) G discussed above, there is a possibility of not being able to renew that trademark and own the exclusive rights to selling your brand. more here on TM

  6. As a student at Waukee High School, this is one frustrating matter for the student body. This is not the first time we will have to change the logo. About 8 years ago it used to be a profile of a Native American but one person complained and everything had to be changed. They even considered changing the name “Warrior” too. Around the state of Iowa (where Waukee is located) there are many names associated with Native Americans including Warriors, Indians, and Mohawks. Now the “W” logo will have to come off our clothing, school, football helmets, and even the gym floor. Now we have a new “W” which looks like the old one except less tilted.

  7. As a student at Waukee, this is frustrating. We have to change practically everything. I just hope that we don’t have to change it AGAIN, because if we do, then we may as well change our name.

  8. I am a student at Watertown High School in Watertown Tennessee and I have heard rumors of us possibly getting sued for the use of this logo also. Ours is also purple and our W is the one featured in the Kellie Pickler Music Video Red High Heels.

  9. I am a high schooler at Waukee. This isn’t something I would recommend but we shouldnt have a right to change our logo. Its different and not the same colors. So technically, We didnt steal their logo. Its way different if you pay attention. Let’s just hope someone else dosen’t think we stole thier logo or something. Because we might as well change our name too. It would be pretty confusing.

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