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Archive for Saturday, August 13, 1994

KU LOGO BRINGS IN BUCKS

August 13, 1994

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Kansas University's mascot has a busy sideline -- hawking merchandise.

He has a red head, a yellow beak and blue feathers. And he's worth a lot of green.

The Kansas University Jayhawk helps to bring in a cool half million dollars a year for scholarships, says Paul Vander Tuig.

Vander Tuig, who is in charge of trademark licensing at KU, says he gets requests from businesses all over the country -- and even overseas -- to use the crimson and blue mascot on their products.

"You name it, they want to put it on it," he said.

Vander Tuig, KU's first trademark administrator, said what he does is threefold.

"I make sure that the person who wants to use it has received permission, therefore is licensed," he said. "Secondly, I make sure the use is approved. And, thirdly, I make sure that royalties are received on the product."

He said there are about 150 to 200 licensed KU products on the market.

Most of the licensees are apparel companies that make sweatshirts, hats and T-shirts. A few companies getting KU licenses make coffee cups, flags, neon lights and computer mouse pads.

The cost of putting a Jayhawk on a product depends on the product, he said.

For apparel items, there's a $250 advance royalty fee. And on nonapparel items there's a $100 advance royalty fee. The university also gets a 7.5 percent royalty on the wholesale selling cost.

"So it's relatively inexpensive, compared to, say, the pro leagues," he said.

This year the Jayhawk -- and the use of KU's name on products -- brought in $525,000 in royalties, he said. That's about $14 million in sales of KU items, he said.

He said 40 percent of the money goes to the general scholarship fund, 35 percent for athletic scholarships and 25 percent for Kansas Union scholarships.

There have been some unusual requests for using the Jayhawk, he said.

"The most recent one we got was a request to put our logo on condom packaging," he said. It was denied.

Why?

"We generally stay away from food and hygiene products. We just don't feel it's an appropriate use of our logo at this point in time," he said.

For example, he said KU wouldn't license somebody to make an official Jayhawk-burger.

"There's probably some people in town who have a Jayhawk sandwich or something like that, which is part of the community spirit. But (it's OK) as long as they're not using the logo to advertise it, and that type of thing. You have to use a little bit of common sense," he said.

Besides the Jayhawk, Vander Tuig also keeps a watch on the commercial use of anything that could be associated with the university.

"If it is associated to the university, by trademark law, that would be the property of the university," he said.

Vander Tuig, who is not a trademark attorney, has a background in business. He taught and coached at the high school level for a couple of years before moving to the University of Minnesota, where he became involved in trademark licensing about seven year ago. He came to KU during the last academic year.

"The industry is really only 10 to 12 years old as far as institutions really recognizing the value that they have in their names and logos and really capitalizing on them," he said.

Asked if companies using cartoon figures similar to the trademarked Jayhawk are infringing on the trademark, Vander Tuig said that technically they are.

"The reason is that trademark law is based on public perception," he said. "If I could take the product you have and said 'What is this?' and John Q. Public says 'I believe that's the Jayhawk,' I have a likelihood of confusion. And that's what trademark law is based on: The likelihood of confusion."

Vander Tuig recently started trademark protections process in about 10 foreign countries.

Can artists use the Jayhawk in their work?

"It's one thing to be an artist," he said. "It's another thing to be an artist capitalizing and selling the likeness of somebody else's property."

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