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Archive for Sunday, June 22, 2008

Department seeking win in court

Jury to hear case regarding sale of unlicensed T-shirts

Signs are posted on the door of Joe-college.com to emphasize that the T-shirts are not licensed by Kansas Athletics Inc. Store owner Larry Sinks is headed to federal court to defend himself and his store from a suit by Kansas Athletics. The department wants Sinks to stop printing Kansas-related designs on blue T-shirts.

Signs are posted on the door of Joe-college.com to emphasize that the T-shirts are not licensed by Kansas Athletics Inc. Store owner Larry Sinks is headed to federal court to defend himself and his store from a suit by Kansas Athletics. The department wants Sinks to stop printing Kansas-related designs on blue T-shirts.

June 22, 2008

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KU athletics to take on t-shirt shop

This week, KU goes to court in a legal contest against an upstart t-shirt shop with plenty of royalties at stake. 6News business editor Mark Fagan looks for a few legal minds in this report. Enlarge video

Two of the T-shirts on sale at Joe-College.com, 734 Mass.

Two of the T-shirts on sale at Joe-College.com, 734 Mass.

Now that Kansas Athletics Inc. already has secured an Orange Bowl title and an NCAA basketball national championship, the protector of all things Jayhawk is playing to win on a different field of competition.

In a jury trial set to begin this week, the department hopes to convince a federal jury to order Larry Sinks to quit printing up Kansas-related designs on blue T-shirts.

The case has nothing to do with timing, officials say, and everything to do with preserving the department's right to manage, license and benefit from designs, logos, fonts and colors that together make up an image for the university and its teams.

"It's no more important now than it was a year ago or two years ago, but the success that we've enjoyed this year has certainly highlighted the importance of this issue," said Jim Marchiony, associate athletics director. "From our perspective, what's at stake is the use of our marks and the goodwill and good name of the University of Kansas. : That's what this is about."

But for Sinks, who sells unlicensed shirts online and through his Joe-College.com shop at 734 Mass., KU's lawsuit is an assault on what he considers his First Amendment rights to say what he wants through paint screened onto a 100 percent cotton garment.

That it might just happen to say "Kansas," or perhaps include a shade of blue selected as the athletic department's own preferred hue, shouldn't matter, he said.

"We're just prepared to fight the fight," said Sinks, whose shirts became popular in recent years among KU students, who often would wear them to class, games and watch parties. "We feel it's our freedom of speech to say what we say on our shirts. :

"I'm a taxpayer in this state, and I have been for many years, and I feel I have the right to use my state name on a shirt anytime I want."

Confusion?

Such issues may seem simple, but there's a reason the case is headed to trial. Already, Kansas Athletics has hired legal counsel that specialize in collegiate licensing issues, and Sinks himself says he has spent nearly $300,000 on his own defense.

At its core, athletics officials argue that Sinks' shirts confuse the public into thinking the clothes are blessed by the department or university. Among examples cited as confusing by KU were blue shirts that might lead someone to believe that they were affiliated with KU's trip to the Orange Bowl against Virginia Tech.

Two specific examples feature the words "HAWK FOOTBALL" on one side, and, on the other:

¢ "Orange You Glad We're Going Bowling in Miami!" While most of the writing was in white, the letters forming "Orange" and "Bowl" were in orange.

¢ "Missouri, It's Your Turn to Pick Cotton (nice bowl game)." The Missouri Tigers played in the Cotton Bowl this year.

Another of the football shirts didn't mention anyone by name, but one side proclaimed that "Our Coach Beat Anorexia."

Kansas Athletics wants Sinks to stop making shirts that the department considers as infringing on its "marks," or trademarks that are protected by law.

"There may be some shirts that some would call distasteful that don't infringe on our marks," Marchiony said. "That's not what this is about. : This is about or marks and protecting the good name of the University of Kansas. We deal with this issue all of the time, with other entities who play by the rules.

"That's what this is about."

Unlicensed

Sinks, in the past, has said that he had tried to secure licenses for selling KU merchandise, but had been rebuffed. So he decided to go a different route: making fun shirts that wouldn't require licenses.

None of his shirts include a Jayhawk, nor do any say "The University of Kansas." Signs posted on his door and throughout the store and on his Web site emphasize that none of the merchandise offered has been licensed by KU.

Now it will be left for a jury to decide whether his designs, colors and resulting products are treading on Kansas Athletics' legal rights, or otherwise staying just far enough away that he can follow through with plans for expanding into franchises and sales of even more shirts.

Lose, and Sinks won't be in business anymore.

"I'm kind of fighting for my life," he said. "I can't sleep. I'm not having trouble eating, but it's just wearing me to the bone. It's my entire livelihood."

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday morning.

"We feel good about our case," he said. "I'm just hoping for a group that's going to be fair - that will pay attention to what the law is and not the political side."

Comments

kuandksufan 5 years, 9 months ago

Check out these two shirts licensed by KU...looks familiar huh?The only difference: KU gets part of the profits when these are sold and not when the same ones are sold from Joe College. Sounds hypocritical to me.http://www.jayhawkbookstore.com/phpshop/?page=shop/flypage&product_id=3740&category_id=21ada8d1d4e5fe17338b8d8d8aac5721&http://www.jayhawkspirit.com/noncollegiate.html

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notajayhawk 5 years, 9 months ago

compmd (Anonymous) says: "I believe it wholly idiotic that anyone would claim to believe his shirts were KU sanctioned. "Kansas Drinking Team?" Seriously, are people that stupid?"You're talking about a society that needs to put "Do not stick your head in the towel loop" stickers on the towel machines in public rest rooms. Did you need to ask that?

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Iam4Mizzou 5 years, 9 months ago

The staff here at missouritigers.com is behind you, Joe College. SCREW THE MAN!!!

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janeyb 5 years, 9 months ago

This is a big story on the TCJ. Where in the LJW?The defendents show up yesterday with a couple of the "degrading T-shirts" KU has been complaining about all week. They were purchased at Jayhawk Spirit and the KU Bookstore and were marked as Licensed by the University of Kansas. So now KU is stealing from Joe College. The jury has been dismissed until July 7, so KU can find out who is manufacturing these shirts and claiming them to be licensed by the Unversity of Kansas. They may actually sue themselves before all is said and done.

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somebodynew 5 years, 9 months ago

Hey LJW, -- Why is it I have to read the Cap-Journal to get updates on the on-going trial.??? They have had stories most of the week keeping people informed, but NOTHING in the LJW. In fact the story today was about arguments outside of the jury that states the KU Bookstore is selling some of the same shirts and claim they are licensed.And while on this topic, I have also noticed that most trials in Lawrence aren't really reported on while on-going. Do you guys/gals even hire reporters anymore or just wait for someone to spoon-feed you the results of stories????I just find it odd that I can get more local coverage from a Topeka paper than a "hometown" source. To me it should be the other way around.

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xyz 5 years, 10 months ago

"...said Jim Marchiony, associate athletics director. "From our perspective, what's at stake is the use of our marks and the goodwill and good name of the University of Kansas. That's what this is about."Rah! Rah! Jim Marchiony (and Lew) concerned about KU goodwill! Remember, that's the same guy who announced that there would be no parade for the B-Ball team and then sent the bill for the cancellation of the private event at the Holidome to the chamber.Wonder what the charge will be for premium seats for Williams clubbers in that courtroom!! Will popcorn be served????I wish I could be on that jury!!!!!

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JackRipper 5 years, 10 months ago

Infantile? Like most of what America brings you now days isn't? What a crook of bull.

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JackRipper 5 years, 10 months ago

Geez, we aren't far from the jackbooted thugs not only making you cough up a fortune for tickets but also implementing a dress code to impress the fuhrer perkins! Oh the joys of not only losing liberties in the country in general but to have a local brown shirt organization ready to implement discipline.

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Brent Cagle 5 years, 10 months ago

I might be on Larry's side if the majority of his shirt designs weren't so infantile...

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LawrenceBoy 5 years, 10 months ago

Hey KU Athletics, there's enough money in this town for both you and Joe-College.But this isn't just about money, is it. It's about what people think. Right! The KU marketing machine is trying to propagate its ideas and/or myths about itself. That's propaganda. It's not a bad word (It's why we buy the yellow dish soap instead of the blue-green dish soap). It's just that propaganda (marketing and branding) has such an unpleasant connotation that links back to "Triumph of the Will". Remember the Nazi propaganda film. Anyway....Whether KU Athletics wins the suit or not won't change peoples' opinions about KU. If you love KU, a T-Shirt isn't going to change your opinion. If you are neutral or hate KU, a T-Shirt isn't going to change your opinion. What's going to change peoples' opinions about KU is what KU does on campus and in the community. With that in mind, this lawsuit is a step in the wrong direction. I hope Joe-College wins and that KU has to pay all their legals fees.BTW, anyone know if its state money that is paying for KU's lawyers. I hope not. But I would gladly pay another quarter, if KU would buy a sense of humor.

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Pudgy1 5 years, 10 months ago

I'm all for the program being successful, but what Hemenway and his cronies are doing is prostituting everyone and everything for the sake of the almighty dollar and nothing more. They don't care about people, just $$.

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yankeelady 5 years, 10 months ago

The athletic department has made it very clear that it is all about the money, in every possible way. They are raising ticket prices (again), they've decreased the size of the bb band so they can sell more seats,and so on. I hope Sinks wins his case. The shirts are tacky but entertaining, and the most entertaining thing of all is watching KAI pick on the little guy. If anybody is making the university look bad, it isn't Joe College.

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Pudgy1 5 years, 10 months ago

"A couple of years ago, one of the schools was told they couldn't use the Jayhawk logo because t was being hijacked by the athletic department. Seems to me like the AD is being a little bit too high-handed."That is absoolutely true! KU Schools and Departments are required to use the University SEAL, and not the friggin Jayhawk. What a crock of crap! Hemenway sold everyone out to Perkins!

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grimpeur 5 years, 10 months ago

From the story: "From our perspective, what's at stake is the use of our marks and the goodwill and good name of the University of Kansas. : That's what this is about."and "That's not what this is about. : This is about or marks and protecting the good name of the University of Kansas."However many times Associate Athletics Director Jim Marchiony of Kansas Athletics, Inc. (KAI) felt he needed to repeat this, I'd appreciate it if he'd stop saying "University of Kansas," because he's deliberately conflating KAI with the University of Kansas in an attempt to make people think that the University of Kansas is whose image and bottom line he's worried about (it's not) and that the University of Kansas is paying his salary (it's not). Kansas Athletics, Inc., pays his salary, and is a separate corporation set up to collect revenue (gate receipts, TV rights, endorsements and advertising) from its sports teams. Most of their revenue comes from their most familiar brands: Kansas Football and Kansas Basketball. This revenue is collected and controlled by KAI, not the University of Kansas. So unless and until Sinks or anybody else starts printing t-shirts with "KAI" or "Kansas Athletics, Inc." on them, then KAI should stop with the fake indignation and false pretexts already, because KAI doesn't appear have a dog in this fight.

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jackpot 5 years, 10 months ago

300.000 in legal fee. How much of the legal fees from the school am I paying? Can I sign up not to pay my part? O.K. I'm turning this over to the blogger out there just how many shades of blue are there? Can K.U. claim them all? I never would make it on that jury. Throw this one out of the courts we need the room for the Kids to have their trial by jury. Is there anyone in the U.S. not a K.U. Grad that thinks this is a K.U. Blue shirt?

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Bob Reinsch 5 years, 10 months ago

I'm pulling for Larry on this one. He is getting close, but should be protected by First Amendment Freedom of Speech laws as well as the infamous Flynt vs. Falwell parody laws. He isn't using the Trajan font, he isn't using the terms "University of Kansas" or "Jayhawks". The school colors are Crimson & Blue not Blue & White. A couple of years ago, one of the schools was told they couldn't use the Jayhawk logo because t was being hijacked by the athletic department. Seems to me like the AD is being a little bit too high-handed.Good luck, Larry! Hope you win!

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compmd 5 years, 10 months ago

Trademark doesn't extend this far. Sinks doesn't use any of the trademarked text of KU (such as "University of Kansas" or "Kansas Jayhawks," etc.) There is also room in the law for parody, which clearly is the point of his products. I believe it wholly idiotic that anyone would claim to believe his shirts were KU sanctioned. "Kansas Drinking Team?" Seriously, are people that stupid? If there was a shred of legitimacy to KU's claims, then I'm sure Duke and UCLA would join in the legal battle for the "Puke" and "FUCLA" shirts available at the store. This also reminds me, I don't think UNC went after the store in Durham that sold me my "Go To Hell Carolina" coffee mug.

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nschmi04 5 years, 10 months ago

the picture listed by the ljworld is not a very good representation of Mr. Sinks merchandise. That said, it makes me no difference what he sells.

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davidsmom 5 years, 10 months ago

Unlicensed shirts can bear something that is in very poor taste and can certainly appear to be sanctioned by KU. He claims he is printing the name of his state on his shirts but no one is naive enough to believe that. If that was the case, he could print the name of Kansas and a big sunflower or something. No, instead he wants the shirts to look like they are KU athletics related instead of State of Kansas related. It will be up to the court(s) to determine if there has been a copyright violation, but I don't know why Mr. Sinks would have risked it in the first place. I'm sorry and I don't know why he couldn't have predicted this fight.

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SouthernBelle 5 years, 10 months ago

The University is unbelievable! They aren't concerned about the "marks and the goodwill and good name of the University of Kansas". They are worried that somebody else in Lawrence might make a buck.

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