The Jayhawk and other university symbols are a cottage industry.
Kansas University researchers are brainy. But their brain fruit produced less income for the school last year than the cartoon bird known as the Jayhawk and other school logos.
Patent and copyright royalties from research added about $490,000 to university coffers last year, according to university figures.
The Jayhawk and other school logos plastered on everything from sweatshirts to squeezable ketchup bottles brought in about $674,000 last year from royalties and licensing fees and are expected to produce $725,000 this year.
For each ballcap, sweatshirt or other item sold with a KU trademark on it, the school is entitled to a 7.5 percent royalty payment.
"We need a Jayhawk Lamborghini," joked Paul Vandertuig, KU's trademark licensing administrator.
A Lamborghini is an astronomically expensive Italian sports car. Some used models sell for as much as $250,000.
But the mainstay of the KU trademark business is what Vandertuig calls "fleece goods," named not for what merchandisers do to customers but because the items are made from cloth.
"Haqua (a bottled water with the Jayhawk on the label) has generated what I would call significant royalties," Vandertuig said. "But your bread and butter is fleece goods, your T-shirts and sweatshirts and hats. It's getting where you can't get an embroidered hat for less than $20. Golf shirts are pretty fair dollar."
Vendors and manufacturers who seek a KU license must first send a sample or prototype to Vandertuig for his approval. His office is lined with samples of all sorts of Jayhawk merchandise: toys, flower pots, ballcaps, a Christmas Tree angel sporting a tiny KU button on its breast, a rectangular glass etched with a Jayhawk for the front piece of a kitchen or bar cabinet.
Before the royalties are the license fees, which vary according to the category of KU trademark goods to be peddled:
- For soft or fleece goods, including T-shirts, sweatshirts and hats, the fee is $250.
- For novelty items, including keychains, license plates, mustard and ketchup bottles, Christmas ornaments, the fee is $100.
- For craft goods or handiwork items generally produced in small quantities, the fee is $25 to $75.
There are some items or types of merchandise the school will not allow its logos to be affixed to, Vandertuig said. Among them are tobacco products, cigarette lighters, wine bottles, condoms, "or anything that might be perceived as less than wholesome."
Since 1912, there have been at least five versions of the Jayhawk. The current Jayhawk has remained unchanged since 1946 and has more of a playful, cartoonish quality than the 1941 and 1926 versions, both of which were scowling.
"Those (versions) were the most aggressive looking," Vandertuig said. "If the Jayhawk isn't the longest-standing mascot in the college business, it is certainly one of the longest."
The amount of money taken in from trademark licensing has skyrocketed over the past 15 years. In 1984, trademark sales only generated $7,939 for KU. Projections for 1998 are $725,000. Proceeds have more than doubled just within the five years Vandertuig has been at the school.
Proceeds from the licensing and royalties are used for student scholarships, and not just in the athletic department, Vandertuig said. Since 1984, the trademark licensing has meant $4.2 million in scholarships.
KU ranks high, 14th among U.S. schools, for the amount of money generated by sales of its logos and emblems, according to 1997 figures. The top five schools last year were University of Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State University, Penn State and North Carolina.
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