Archive for Friday, October 9, 2009 argues judge’s ruling would mean end to T-shirt company is fighting the decision from courts to pay the University of Kansas more than $600,000. The business argued the legal fees will be a death sentence for the local shop.

October 9, 2009


Related document Motion to Reconsider ( .PDF )

Defense attorneys are calling it the “legal and economic equivalent of the death penalty” for a Lawrence T-shirt retailer.

The owners of are asking a federal judge to reconsider her recent ruling, ordering them to pay $667,507 in attorneys fees and expenses to Kansas Athletics Inc. The expenses were amassed during a court case over KU-themed T-shirts that was selling.

“I just wanted to make sure that some of the things we felt were important as part of this issue were things that (U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson) was able to give full consideration to,” said Jim Tilly, an attorney for Larry Sinks, an owner of the store, 734 Mass.

In the motion, Tilly and attorney Cody Robertson argue that Robinson must reconsider her order because she “made findings of fact that are not supported by the record.” The defense asks that she reverse the decision to award legal fees to KU.

Robinson ruled in late September that Sinks, Clark Orth and Victory Sportswear LLC — collectively known as — must cover Kansas Athletics’ costs in the case brought against the store for trademark infringement.

“(Their filing) is not surprising considering the amount the judge awarded us,” said Jim Marchiony, a KU associate athletics director.

A jury in 2008 found that 53 of the 206 Joe-College T-shirt designs in question infringed upon or diluted KU’s trademarks. After the verdict, Sinks and his group were responsible for paying $127,000 in penalties for selling shirts that jurors said could be confused with official KU-licensed merchandise.

Attorneys for Sinks say the verdict is important because jurors found KU was entitled to recover damages on only a quarter of the shirts presented in the July trial.

“The jury rejected KU’s claims regarding the remaining shirts, and in doing so, sent a message that Joe College should remain in business,” defense attorneys wrote. “Ironically, by awarding KU $667,507.42 in attorneys’ fees and expenses, the court may have delivered a crushing blow to defendants from which there is no possibility of recovery.”

The attorneys also argue that Sinks did not intentionally infringe of KU’s trademarks and that early on he relied on an attorney’s advice on which shirts to stop manufacturing due to KU trademarks and which ones were OK.

Both sides in the case have filed appeals. KU is appealing the jury’s original verdict, and Sinks was already trying to reduce the original penalty from the verdict.


mommyoffour 8 years, 5 months ago

Sounds typical, kick the little guy when he is down and out. I think that they should of just told him to stop making the t shirts and maybe a small fine. But now he will have no choice to go out of business. GO KU, what ever. They have enough money. The guy was just trying to make a little money and root for KU. I have bought shirts there for our whole family before going to games. I couldnt afford to buy the real deal. The prices are outrages for liscensed KU stuff. Guess if you don't have lots of money then KU don't want you to have KU spirit. Oh well, just my thoughts. I could be wrong but I think they should not be so hard on the guy!

mom_of_three 8 years, 5 months ago

if you know where to shop, KU stuff is not outrageous. A great KU tshirt can be found for $15 or less, and they are approved by the University. (and are in better taste than some of those at Joe Cool).

puddleglum 8 years, 5 months ago

this is just the first step in the soon-to-be KU monopoly! soon, no one will ever be able to use blue or crimson anymore. I can't wait until they go after all of the businesses in town that use the word 'jayhawk' in their names.

Ricky_Vaughn 8 years, 5 months ago

Doesn't KU make enough money exploiting their student athletes?

Oh well. The rich get richer.

PebblesFlintstone 8 years, 5 months ago

Um..."Joe Cool" is a Snoopy alter ego that debuted in Peanuts in 1970. Perhaps if you're going to criticize someone's place of business, you could use the correct name of the store. Just sayin'.

jhawker20 8 years, 5 months ago

Finally Larry Sinks is getting some of what he deserves, maybe they should allow the others to keep the business open and send Larry Sinks to Columbia with the other sleaze balls. He is not some “little guy” he got his warnings and he had the chance to get a license, but didn’t want to pay for it and thought he was above KU and the LAW.

hail2oldku 8 years, 5 months ago

Yeah, poor Larry.

Didn't want to pay the licensing fees like the other t-shirt shops in town, got bad advice from an attorney about which shirts would be infringing, still had a chance to settle before it went to trial BUT it's big old bad KU against the little guy (who lives in the million dollar home off of the golf course on the private side of Alvamar).

gogoplata 8 years, 5 months ago

He is not using the trademark jayhawk or KU so what is the big deal?

BobtheBuilder 8 years, 5 months ago

I personally think the shirts are fun and are very clever. He definitely did not use any trademarks, and in fact went out of his way not to use them. He has a bunch of signs in the store that warn people they are not official shirts. Who cares where the guy lives. I wonder what trailerpark hail2oldku lives in. Its obvious everyone knows who he is. Hang in there Larry, we know its been a rough ride but the folks who know you are supporting you and your family.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 8 years, 5 months ago

He knew he was taking a huge risk and lost the gamble. Now he's saying "but wait, now I'm out of business!". How's this different from, say, Yellow House? The business was built on illegal activity. Once you get caught, you have to face the music.

p> was "stealing" from KU. That's what it amounts to. KU fans should be upset about that.

"He has a bunch of signs in the store that warn people they are not official shirts."

And the guy selling knockoff Rolex watches out of the back of a van should get away with it because he admits they are knockoffs?

parrothead8 8 years, 5 months ago

There are literally dozens of places around town to get cheap KU t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, etc. I don't think one law-breaker going out of business is going to kill the Lawrence economy, and it may actually increase customer traffic for those who go about their business legally.

Boston_Corbett 8 years, 5 months ago

Marion: We know all too well your sense of "good taste." Besides, you never do what you say you will anyway.

BobtheBuilder 8 years, 5 months ago

It is so funny how people think they know so much about someone. I've been around his family for a long time and know for a fact what so many of you are saying is not true. Sinks was a partner in JC with Dave Freeman but got out of the company when he knew there was wrong doings going on. It is crazy how many people are quick to pile on someone when their luck is down. There is so many things he and his family have done for so many people. I call Lawrence home because I believe it is a wonderful community and great people. It saddens me to hear people say things they know nothing about. I have been succesful in my trade and so many people are jealous. Best of luck to all you haters out there. Good luck Larry and I'm thinking about you and your family.

t8keme2co 8 years, 5 months ago

I know I have about 8 t-shirts in my own closet that I bought at joe college. I have also mailed several shirts off to friends that live in other states. I agree some of them are a bit much but to my knowledge most of the shirts come from ideas that KU fans have shared with them. Let him keep selling the shirts. KU just gets upset when something is their own original idea. Take the Bud Light cans for example. Bud Light manufactured those cans just for football season and for many different fans from different teams and states. Who cares if they are blue and red? I'm pretty sure they already had blue and red on them before, it's just a different pattern. KU got upset that it was using their colors and it was going to promote underage drinking. News flash just because the can changed doesn't mean the people choosing to drink them change. If a minor wants to drink they will find a way no matter what. If I want to show my support to the athletes and the teams at KU I shouldn't have to be limited to wearing a Kansas approved shirt, sweatshirt, or hat. I should be allowed to wear anything red or blue no matter what it says.

oklahoma 8 years, 5 months ago


You can wear whatever you like. Joe sold the shirts, profiting from infringing on someone else's rights. His attorney knew the risk that he'd get hammered with attorneys fees, but kept litigating anyway. He simply broke the law and now has to pay.

lawrenceishome 8 years, 5 months ago

Official KU t-shirts are dull. Who wants to have a huge Commerce Bank or Adidas logo on the shirt? LAME. KU Athletics, this is a joke. Obviously the people have spoken...Joe College had ya beat!

jayhawks71 8 years, 5 months ago

So let me get this right, KU (my alma mater) was WRONG on nearly 3/4 of the shirts and they get their legal fees covered? So if KU had been granted that ONE shirt was infringing and 205 were not (and the shirt guy had to defend those), the shirt guy would still be responsible for all of KU's legal fees? Whether that is the reality, it seems rather unfair.

Tom McCune 8 years, 5 months ago

"Rock Chalk, Jayhawk" was the chant of the KU geology club starting in 1886. As I understand it, it was public domain for nearly a century. How in the world it could be trademarked by the KU Athletic Corporation boggles my mind.

I think I'll trademark "In God We Trust" and sue the government for royalties every time they print it on a dollar bill.

Bob Forer 8 years, 5 months ago

Jayhawks71, As a lawyer, I find your argument especially compelling. Simple, but brilliant, especially when it appears that the same argument has not been made by the attorneys. Good argument to wipe out approximately 75 per cent of the fees judgment.

Knowing Larry, he'll read this and give a heads up to his not too brilliant but highly paid attorneys.

KS 8 years, 5 months ago

Does Lew have a voice? We never hear him speak. It is always that Jim Marchiony guy.

hail2oldku 8 years, 5 months ago

BTB, I admit that I find many of the shirts funny as well. I especially love the one about people in Poland telling Missouri jokes. It really get's under my Mizzou family's skin. Regardless of how funny they may be though, there were enough shirts that crossed the line and Larry knew it - or at least he would have if his attorney would have had a clue. So he was either arrogant enough to think he could get away with it, or not smart enough to hire an attorney that knew what they were doing. Either way he still had plenty of time to correct the situation before it got to trial.

I guess I'll just have to sit back and laugh at all of you that don't have a clue about trademark infringement (but, but it doesn't say KU or Jayhawks) or in BTB's case a clue about anything since he is certain he knows who I am. You couldn't guess who I am if you named every person in the Lawrence telephone book.

corduroypants 8 years, 5 months ago

Same old uninformed comments, over and over again. He was infringing and he knew it. Thought no one would notice or care. Well, KU has called his bluff and now he has to pay. Doesn't matter if he lives on the street or a mansion, if he's a saint or an a-hole. He's making money off KU's name and they have every right (in fact, a duty) to protect and defend their marks and trade dress.

OutlawJHawk 8 years, 5 months ago

Ralphralph, not if you're an attorney or related to the Perkins family...

BrianR 8 years, 5 months ago

"If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared." -- Niccolo Machiavelli

This, however, is a double-edged sword.

Sharon Aikins 8 years, 5 months ago

The law is the law and Mr. Sinks knew exactly what he was doing. Had he not been too cheap to pay the fees, this wouldn't have happened. Sounds to me like all the money he spent on attorneys advice could have been used to pay the fees. Maybe KUAC doesn't need the money and we don't all approve of their tactics, but it is a matter of law. If we ignore it, why have it? Mr. Sinks chose to step up to the line, and over according to a jury. Now he has to accept responsibility for his actions. I agree that the legal fees are outrageous however.

As to the beer cans, a lot of schools, with different colors, came out against those.

jayhawks71 8 years, 5 months ago

The fact that KU won a TRADEMARK claim on "Our coach can eat your coach" (and lost on "Our coach beat anorexia" which clearly offends more people than the "eat" shirt), although a different issue than the legal fees, seems PREPOSTEROUS.

corduroypants 8 years, 5 months ago

It's also fitting that Joe College can't even come up with an original logo. Coca-Cola anyone?

Bill Lee 8 years, 5 months ago

I just want to know when the clearance sale is so I can pick up some really cheap shirts.

BigPrune 8 years, 5 months ago

I hate lawyers. They are crooked as hell. Of course the judge is a lawyer as well. Almost seems like a conflict of interest since they like to protect their own.

Unix_Admin 8 years, 5 months ago

I have known Larry for quite some time - cool guy.

TriSigmaKS 8 years, 5 months ago

Just go away Joe College, poor taste you have.

BabyBear 8 years, 5 months ago

Anyone who wants joe college to fail should be forced to put their jobs on the line for anyone who happens to want their job. Maybe there is someone out there who doenst like you, or how you do your job. so you should be fired because the MINORITY doenst like you.... feels good huh?

SWJayhawk13 8 years, 4 months ago

This is so ridiculous. If you couldn't tell that the Joe College shirts WEREN'T K.U. Athletics shirts, you're a little, there are signs all over that store stating that the shirts are not by KU. KU (but KU athletics in particular) are money hungry. I think that the 53 shirts that "infringed" on KU Athletics are debatable. How about KU athletics stop spending so damn much money on planting trees around the football stadium and other stupid sh*t. God they drive me crazy!

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