High schools that share logos with universities may soon find themselves shopping for new mascots.Florida State, which last week reached a settlement with the Rockdale County Board of Education prohibiting Salem High and Memorial Middle from using the Seminoles logo, isn't the only university aggressively protecting its trademark.The Atlanta-based Collegiate Licensing Company, acting on behalf of the University of Florida, sent a similar letter to two Palm Beach, Fla., high schools last fall. And the University of Mississippi forced a Tennessee high school to drop its mascot of 50 years, Colonel Reb, due to trademark infringement claims.
I've seen plenty of high school mascots and logos that were copies of collegiate or professional teams' logos. I, like most of you (I'm guessing), assumed the schools had actually asked. I should have known better.
The likely response is "but they're schools".
"It was a matter of principle for me," said [Rockdale] board vice chairwoman Jean Yontz, who cast one of two dissenting votes. "We're not making money off the the Seminoles, but now we're going to have to take money away from education to pay for this."
Making money is beside the point. If a logo has value to the high school, it seems disingenuous to claim that it doesn't have any to the college. In the eyes of the law (which must mean something), co-opting someone else's intellectual property is theft. It the intellectual property owner doesn't protect its right to control how its property is used, it loses that right and the material becomes public domain. The courts have been consistent over this point for decades.