Universities are Serious Trademark Business

Where, when and how can a university use its logo?  Almost every university has a conglomerate of trademark filings:  some for their name, some with their logos and others with word marks.

For example, Boston College has 19 live trademarks.  This means they have “Boston College”, “Boston College Eagles” and BC tied up for many classes from clothing, picture frames, educations and Internet courses.

Can I use a BC on a uniform in a film?

Background Information

Question #1 – Is the mark confusing similar?  Answer – It is the same!

University of South Carolina filed for the use of this mark.

University of Southern California claimed it was the same mark as this.

The courts agreed the interlocking SC was identical and therefore they denied the use of the interlocking SC to University of Southern California.

Once upon a time, the use of a college trademark was considered geographically contained; no longer!  Since universities have sponsorship and licensing renewals, they are unlikely to let an infringement slide by due to obligation to their sponsors ad advertisers.  The decision for you to use a university mark may infringe upon their obligations to other agreements.

If you are making a sports movie, you will need to license the rights, obtain E&O Insurance and meet the obligations of your license agreement.  If you do not, unless you are making a documentary or using the intellectual property for public education, information or broadcasting as news, you will get sued!

Question #2 – Can I say the name of the trademark? Answer – Maybe.

“BC” for Boston College is trademarked.

If you in any way defame the trademark with slander (speech) then you can be sued.  Once again the universities have obligation to their sponsors and these are likely to be deep pockets that will sue you.

Question #3 – Can I use the mascot on the uniforms and infer the name of the university; i.e. can I use an Eagle with Boston College?

Answer – NO! Once again the universities have great legal departments and if your intellectual property is going to be viewed domestically or internationally you could be liable for defaming their sponsors.  BC and the “eagle” incontext with “BC” will be protected.

The Conclusion

You have to know what you are doing.  Using sports teams will require legal counsel and specialized counsel.  Do no underestimate the power of the university!