Why did "Shoelace" T-shirt violate NCCA regs?

Submitted by StephenRKass on September 21st, 2010 at 8:44 PM

I don't understand why the Shoelace T-shirt and HE16MAN T-shirt violate NCAA regulations on a likeness of Denard. This whole thing vexes me. Mostly because I didn't buy one of the T-Shirts I liked when they were still available.

I just wonder if UofM is coming down so they can corner more of the market.

I also wonder why T-shirt kiosks, which appear to be unregulated, can exist in front of the Michigan Union on game weekends. It seems a very selective application of the NCAA regs to come down on mgostore and several others out there.



September 21st, 2010 at 8:53 PM ^

The NCAA hasn't ruled on anything.  This is the university stepping in and trying to head off any potential NCAA compliance issues.  This is not about cornering the market.  The school is not going to print up its own "Shoelace" t-shirts.  You could make a case that "Shoelace" and "HE16MAN" aren't explicitly in violation of NCAA rules, but they fall in enough of a gray area (they're obviously in honor of one particular player) to possibly cause trouble, and we don't want that at a time when we're waiting on the NCAA to issue a final ruling on the practice hours thing. 

The t-shirt stands outside are flouting university policy.  (They also have a fun habit of ripping off other people's designs.)  I don't know why they haven't gotten in trouble, but I wouldn't give them my business.


September 21st, 2010 at 9:02 PM ^

My (least) favorite design is the "Worst State Ever" shirt that finds it necessary to put "(ohio)" under the caption, within the outline of Ohio. If you feel the need to have the shirt explicitly say what state it is referring to, even WITH the inclusion of the outline of the state, you don't deserve the shirt in the first place.

It's just like when someone tells a joke and then says, "That's funny because..."


September 21st, 2010 at 8:57 PM ^

Now I can't recall what the HE16MAN shirt looked like, but didn't it use a similar font to the MICHIGAN shirts?  maybe that's what the infringement was?  I have no idea...

Shoelace... Denard's legal name is not Shoelace, so I wonder if the University really has a case with that shirt as well.  I think it's rubbish, but I'm just a powerless serf, in the kingdom that is the University of Michigan.


September 21st, 2010 at 8:58 PM ^

copyright issues surrounding Michigan branding reach beyond what is marketed and into 'brand confusion.' thus, the school C&Ds anything they feel a consumer might believe is being sold in connection with the school. general copyright law dictates that if a reasonable consumer could come to believe the product was associated with the school, it's out.

'Shoelace' + '16' + 'Blue and Yellow' = Reasonable


September 21st, 2010 at 10:42 PM ^

You're confusing a number of different types of intellectual property here. Likelihood of confusion has to do with trademarks, not copyright.  And the issues with the Denard shirts likely have little to nothing to do with University trademarks. This has to do mostly with the NCAA's stupid rules.  


September 21st, 2010 at 10:56 PM ^

OT Rant: I don't know about gameday purchases, but I got a Shoelace shirt just before they went off the market.  One washing in and the design is pretty degraded.  At this rate, I will have a solid blue shirt by OSU.  That said, I did not find it to be very good luck last Saturday, so it may go off the gameday rotation.


September 21st, 2010 at 11:56 PM ^

On the other hand, it may just as well be that your degraded Shoelace shirt brought us just enough good luck to pull out a win that we could very well have lost. One or two bounces of the ball in an alternate direction and HORROR II.

So thanks, and hope you keep it in the rotation, at least. We will need some good luck to win a few extra this year.

Go Blue!


September 21st, 2010 at 9:08 PM ^

By law anyone with a trademark must defend the trademark. If they do not then they lose the trademark, so the University must try and stop the sale of anything that might be trademark infingement by law, That is why the University will try and stop stuff that their might be a case of trademark infringement, other stuff is fear of NCAA and i can't really blame them on thatI


September 21st, 2010 at 9:13 PM ^

I think this comes down essentially what JMBlue said.  At a time when the NCAA is still outstanding on its ruling in the infractions case.  In a time where Michigan has already placed itself on self-imposed probation, the compliance personnel want to make sure that all i's are dotted and t's are crossed.  It has become clear, especially in the new era of NCAA enforcement, that you have to cover your bases.  It's much easier to go after an establishment that has an licensing agreement with the University than it is to go against some random bootleg t-shirt stand (even if it's a little easier to track down now: http://annarbortshirtcompany.com/)

I'm just bummed because the Tom Harmon shirt was so awesome and it's a little hard to run afoul of NCAA eligibility issues when you have shuffled off this mortal coil.


September 21st, 2010 at 9:26 PM ^

I am excited to learn that every pair of shoelaces I have ever owned may violate the University's trademark on what exactly?  So I can't buy a plain t-shirt and draw a shoelace on it with a magic marker?  A trademark on the existence of shoelaces?  Fancy.

I no longer trust my shoelaces.


September 21st, 2010 at 9:55 PM ^

just wait a couple years and once Denard is out of college you can buy all the HE16MAN shirts you want.  that's my plan.  Maybe He-Man was also threatening an infringement suit...


September 21st, 2010 at 11:05 PM ^

As far as I can tell, the "HE16MAN" shirt was not mentioned in the C&D letter, and therefore UP must have taken it down voluntarily:


As to why the "shoelace" shirt was removed, the University seems to feel that this is a nickname, and the NCAA's interpretation of its regulations (below) indicates that use of an athlete's nickname is impermissible.

NCAA Official Interpretation
Use of Student-Athlete's Number Accompanied by a Heisman Trophy Slogan
Date Published: August 27, 1998

Use of Student-Athlete's Number Accompanied by a Heisman Trophy Slogan: A noninstitutional commercial entity may produce and sell a commercial item that includes a current student-athlete's jersey number accompanied by a slogan promoting the student-athlete's candidacy for a national recognition award (e.g., Heisman trophy) without jeopardizing the student-athlete's eligibility, provided the item does not contain the student-athlete's actual name (or nickname) or picture (or likeness). [References: (nonpermissible -- advertisements and promotions subsequent to enrollment) and (nonpermissible -- use of a student-athlete's name or picture without knowledge or permission).]

oriental andrew

September 22nd, 2010 at 9:42 AM ^

It wasn't an official C&D letter, but a letter from the AD basically stating, "Please remove these shirts as they may violate NCAA regulations.  We don't want to have to hit you with a REAL C&D letter."  

Brian and UGP complied (although I'm not sure how much of it was UGP complying and Brian acceding to UGP's decision).  The theory is also, as Brian initially stating, that they took down everything and that, upon further review, some shirts deemed not in violation (or even in a gray area) would be allowed back up.  

As I posted the other day, this is exactly what happened, with a few shirts being put back up in the store, including WSE and Space Bitches.  Who knows if anything else will come back, but I would bet that anything with a player-specific reference (including Shoelace) is gone for good.

mr. arbor

September 22nd, 2010 at 12:14 AM ^

but the university of michigan has a right to protect its trademark. This includes all designs, mascots, symbols, seals... even colors (maize and blue) and fonts that are associated with the UofM.  There was a federal case about 15 years ago where Wisconsin sued some t-shirt store for making their own Buckey the badger t-shirts. (University Book Store v. Univ of Wisconsin Board of Regents. The school won.

As noted above, even colors and fonts can be trademark. 

I have no idea what the NCAA allows... the the university prop has grounds to keep t's out of stores.  

Re: Copyrights - the incredibly genius and creative designer of these great t-shirts has a copyright on the design, a copyright attaches to any original creative work. These designs are so incredibly original (maybe w/ exception of the use of the Goonies skull - which i still LOVE) the university could not claim its copyrighted designs were infringed upon. Still doesnt mean t's can be sold.   


(sorry for spelling or if case's name is incorrect... took ambien 30 min ago)


September 22nd, 2010 at 12:15 AM ^

Everyone is missing the real issue here.

Brian and Underground Printing made calculated decisions to lay in bed with the University - Brian et. al with the press pass they received, UP with Moe's acquisition and the related license to sell official merchandise.

Because of this, even if the University has very little legal ground to stand on, they have all the leverage.  If they want, they can say "take the t-shirts down or we pull your press pass/official merch license."

It's a conundrum that I believe Brian has alluded to when he's talked about why he personally doesn't attend press functions or sit in the press box at games.


September 22nd, 2010 at 10:31 AM ^

It didn't become a "problem" till UP bought Moe's and became a licensed dealer of Michigan products. Now it looks like someone who pays the University is making money off of player likenesses, which means indirectly the University is, which could get them into trouble (if you want to ignore all the "legal" ways schools profit on player likenesses. It amazing how the jerseys they sell always seem to have the numbers of notable players). Brian could probably bring them back using another store that's not in bed with the University, but what ones are there? UP WAS that place.


September 22nd, 2010 at 4:19 AM ^

I get that UofM would want to protect themselves from any possible violations at a time like this, that is obvious. My only question is, how does a blog, which is not even apart of the University get the University dinged for violations? UofM can't possibly know and stop everybody from selling t-shirts, so how would it be their fault?


September 22nd, 2010 at 8:20 AM ^

It would be my understanding that if they are aware of it, particularly from one of their authorized licensees, they would need to do their due dilligence because you can't just throw up your hands and say "We didn't know" because the counter point to that from the NCAA is "You should have known" and that seems to be the current direction of NCAA enforcement practices.

Elno Lewis

September 22nd, 2010 at 8:27 AM ^

had to change their logo because it featured wings.


The NCAA and the UM want to make sure they can squeeze every penny they can get out of their athletes and programs, every penny.  Its probably due to the ever inflating salaries they have to pay the players. 



September 22nd, 2010 at 9:25 AM ^

"I wish I could have heard you say this to figure out whether it's sarcastic or not." If you're saying we pay our players, I think you're incredibly wrong. If it's just sarcasm than it's pure POTATO SALAD. Would you like some chips with that Emo?..Elmo...Elno - Put that gun down before you shoot your eye out.


September 22nd, 2010 at 9:32 AM ^

I've noticed the "East Lansing is a Woman..." shirt and the "This is why we don't have a wolverine mascot" shirt are still not back up. I can understand the shirts involving player likenesses, but those shirts have absolutely nothing to do with the university. They are no different than the "Worst State Ever Shirt".


September 22nd, 2010 at 10:42 AM ^ Use of a Student-Athlete’s Name or Picture Without Knowledge or Permission. If a student-
athlete’s name or picture appears on commercial items (e.g., T-shirts, sweatshirts, serving trays, playing
cards, posters) or is used to promote a commercial product sold by an individual or agency without the studentathlete’s
knowledge or permission, the student-athlete (or the institution acting on behalf of the student-athlete)
is required to take steps to stop such an activity in order to retain his or her eligibility for intercollegiate athletics.
Such steps are not required in cases in which a student-athlete’s photograph is sold by an individual or agency
(e.g., private photographer, news agency) for private use. (Revised: 1/11/97, 5/12/05)