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Archive for Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sticks and stones

Kansas University is overstepping in its efforts to clean up the products of a local T-shirt shop.

July 20, 2008

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It's understandable that Kansas University wants to try to put itself in the best possible light, but those efforts shouldn't be allowed to conflict with the constitutional right of free expression.

That issue seemed to confuse even the jurors whose verdict in KU's lawsuit against a local T-shirt shop included many inconsistencies. The KU athletics department filed a lawsuit against Joe-College.com claiming that more than 200 of the shirts the business produces and sells either infringe on university trademarks or use images that somehow could devalue those trademarks by reflecting poorly on KU.

The issue of infringing on university trademarks is relatively clear-cut. For instance, T-shirts that used the Jayhawk logo or even the word Jayhawk mostly were deemed to infringe on the university's trademark. However, even that point wasn't absolute, because a T-shirt that read "Howdy from Jayhawkland" was found not to infringe.

Jurors clearly didn't think Joe-College's use of blue T-shirts, at least close to KU's official blue, was a trademark infringement. Neither was the use of the word "Kansas" or even "Hawk."

When it got to shirts that might reflect poorly on or "dilute" university trademarks, however, the jury decisions got pretty confusing. Many shirts that poked fun at Missouri, often in off-color ways, were deemed not to dilute KU's trademark, but one that implied Missouri graduates were only qualified to deliver pizzas was found in violation. A shirt that referred to the "Kansas Drinking Team" was OK, but one that used an illustration of sperm and carried the words "Kansas Swim Team" was not.

So what was this lawsuit about? Again the trademark part seems clear. KU doesn't want anyone using KU trademarks without KU's permission and without paying a fee for the privilege. But the issue of "dilution" of the brand seems like a case of whining to mommy because someone is calling you names.

Granted, many of the messages on Joe-College T-shirts are distasteful and disrespectful, but that doesn't make them illegal. If the university is trying to legally bar the printing of anything that someone thinks reflects poorly on the university brand, it will have many targets, including its own student newspaper and any number of other news outlets.

Protecting KU trademarks is a legitimate goal, but trying to force a business that caters especially to college students to clean up its language is a fruitless and unconstitutional chore. All the KU athletics department has done so far is make itself look arrogant while, at the same time, vastly increasing the popularity of the T-shirts sold by Joe-College.com.

At this rate, KU may someday have to sue its own athletics department for reflecting poorly on the university brand.

Comments

kujayhawk7476 6 years, 5 months ago

The right of the Kansas Athletic Corporation and that of the University of Kansas to file suit to protect its image is just as valid as Joe College's right of free expression. Much the same as it is your right to create such a meaningless, self-serving opinion column. One does not trump the other.And it is my right to state that your "newspaper" seems to be on a mission to criticize the University and the Athletics Corporation lately. Go ahead, bite the hand that feeds you so the rest of us can laugh at your plight!

Richard Heckler 6 years, 5 months ago

At this rate, KU may someday have to sue its own athletics department for reflecting poorly on the university. And doing little towards contributing to academic achievement.Not to mention ripping local taxpayers each time a scheduled home game is moved elsewhere. City Hall likely was basing a budget off of projected game day revenues.Now we got it straight

neoquixote 6 years, 5 months ago

lol, If i would have the choice, I prefer ceder creek.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 6 years, 5 months ago

kujayhawk7476: "Go ahead, bite the hand that feeds you so the rest of us can laugh at your plight!""The hand that feeds" routinely needs to be bitten, IMNSHO.

neoquixote 6 years, 5 months ago

I am wandering if the term U.S.A has been claimed by the nation's government and not been allowed to be used on some kind of T-shirts or pants.

OnlyTheOne 6 years, 5 months ago

Down with KU! Off with the Chancellor's head!Boycott all KU sports events.Don't rent to students. Heck, don't sell to faculty either.No more drunken orgys.That'll teach 'em.

LloydDobbler 6 years, 5 months ago

Pair this story with the "High Finance" story and I think it is without question that the athletic department has gotten way out of hand. Academic buidlings crumble while the AD continues to build at will. Why is the athletic department reaping all the benefits of trademarks anyway. Are the basketball and football teams the only students who can claim to be Jayhawks? No, so why do the proceeds go solely to the athletic department? Something's gotta give...

LJD230 6 years, 5 months ago

The hypocricy of this newspaper is beyond belief. Please note the advertisement which appears adjacent to the editorial which decries the decision re: trademark infringement. Everybody, even this rag of a newspaper, wants to make a buck from the recent athletic success of KU.Lawrence is no longer deserving of being home to KU. Perhaps a move to Johnson County is in order.

LJD230 6 years, 5 months ago

merrill (Anonymous) says:"Not to mention ripping local taxpayers each time a scheduled home game is moved elsewhere. City Hall likely was basing a budget off of projected game day revenues."Wrong: the only folks who may have been "ripped off" were downtown merchants and KU owes them squat!!!Wrong: If City Hall ever projects it's budget on KU athletic activities, there is something wrong with Lawrence City Goivernment which the LJW should investigate immediately.Now we got it right.

grimpeur 6 years, 5 months ago

Only said: "No more drunken orgys"Now you're going too far.

Quigly 6 years, 5 months ago

This whole ordeal is a circus. KU what a joke. LJW, yet another example of poor journalism. This town is becoming one big circus. Move to Johnson county? It seems to me that Lawrence is starting to smell like Topeka. Pretty stanky. Pretty stanky indeed. Kind of like the waste of money dealing with this trail. Who is paying for this? Oh wait, we are paying for it. Nice, thank you KU for your time and effort put into this. Thank you all for taking a complete waste of time and turning it into something worth taking our hard earned tax dollars and turning it a big pile of crap. I would guess there would be some one intelligent enough to give it a rest and wait for something tangible to sue about.

grimpeur 6 years, 5 months ago

From the article: "At this rate, KU may someday have to sue its own athletics department for reflecting poorly on the university brand."Hoooooo yeah! That's some damn fine smack.Except that the corporation which makes its money off the brands "Kansas Basketball" and "Kansas Football" and which is besmirching the image of KU and thus needs a good slapping is not the athletic department of Kansas University. Rather, it's Kansas Athletics, Inc., which is not part of KU and whose involvement in this whole dealie is apparently nothing more than as a hired thug whenever they or KU selectively and capriciously decide they need to rearrange some kneecaps.

temperance 6 years, 5 months ago

I have mixed feelings about the ruling, but the premise of this editorial is just plain stupid. No court has recognized a 1st Amendment right to violate another's trademark or copyright. It's just not a competent way to argue against KU in this instance, and only serves to muddle our public understanding of copyright & the 1st Amendment.The author needs to Google "fair use."

Bone777 6 years, 5 months ago

Marion, Nice post. I knew all of the Jayhawk history at one time or another, but had forgotten. It is really amazing when you think about it. Thanks for the research. I'll return to insulting in the near future.

Phillbert 6 years, 5 months ago

Notnowdear, I suggest you use the "Sort by date" feature on your "handy dandy research embargo site" as there were a whole range of stories mentioning KU research in just the last two months.Oh, and there were also a bunch here in just the last few weeks: www.news.ku.edu - but of course it is easier to use faulty searches and un-updated Web sites to make your "point."

Jay_lo 6 years, 5 months ago

Marion (Marion Lynn) says: All of the comments concerning "fair use" are accurate if and only if, the claimed trademarks and copyrights are legitimate in the first place.What KU has done is to claim copyright on terms and images which were in the public domain.This would be like me claiming copyright and trademark to the term "automobile".The only way KU can claim copyright and / or tradmark on these terms and images is if they had been granted the right to do so. They were granted these rights through legitimate legal arguments. If you would like to file a claim for "automobile", go right ahead, but if you are not granted such rights, then your argument is moot.Once the courts have decided that something is not in the public domain, then it can award the rights for use to the entity who is claiming ownership. Once that award is made, then the entity awarded such ownership rights has every legal right to protect their claim.It all depends on whether or not the courts rule that something is public domain or not.

cds 6 years, 5 months ago

LJD230 (Anonymous) says: merrill (Anonymous) says:"Not to mention ripping local taxpayers each time a scheduled home game is moved elsewhere. City Hall likely was basing a budget off of projected game day revenues."Wrong: the only folks who may have been "ripped off" were downtown merchants and KU owes them squat!!!_____Every single restaurant, hotel/motel, gas station, store, benifits from games at home, and provides more taxes for the city. Ask anyone who works in these services, anywhere in this city, if business picks up on home games. You'll find the answer is yes.

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