OT: USC vs USC trademark lawsuit

Submitted by formerlyanonymous on January 21st, 2010 at 5:52 PM

A federal circuit court upheld a lower court ruling between Southern Cal and South Carolina today. The courts ruled in favor of Southern Cal owning the rights to any interlocking SC hats, regardless of color or even shape apparently.

That middle hat is also considered infringing upon the SC brand from my understanding. South Carolina will wear it this season despite that infringement, but they will not be able to make any royalties from the sell of said hat. The South Carolina hat has only been around campus a few years now. Previously, they used a gamecock hat, logo below:

I love how the Southern Cal attorney got another jab in at the end of the article, emphasis mine:

Scott Edelman, an attorney representing the Los Angeles university, hailed the ruling as protection of the school's "primary athletic mark" used on team clothing and equipment that brings in significant revenue. Sports logo registrations are not limited to use in team colors, so there was potential for South Carolina merchandise to be mistaken for that of USC, Edelman said.

He also suggested that the letters were more deservedly linked to the Trojans' warrior image than to "a goofy little chicken."

This seems totally ridiculous to me, but it also reminds me of the lawsuit Wisconsin had a few years ago with a high school team.

(HT: Kendall Rogers)



January 21st, 2010 at 5:57 PM ^

I watched the PapaJohns.com bowl with my brother-in-law and six-year-old nephew. They had a pretty interesting debate regarding the South Carolina mascot. It was decided that a game cock was in fact half-dragon/half-chicken.

You have to admit, it is a fierce looking chicken.


January 21st, 2010 at 7:02 PM ^

As an IP attorney, while these things may seem trivial, failing to enforce your mark dilutes the value of the trademark. Two well known examples are "Xerox" and "Kleenex", often used to describe the general act of making a copy or a generic tissue, but in actuality representing products from Xerox Corp. and Kimberly-Clark.

No way in hell should Michigan ever back off from protecting that winged helmet and that block M.

Section 1

January 21st, 2010 at 8:53 PM ^

Should Michigan have sued the Milwaukee Brewers, circa 1970-77?


What about the Missouri Tigers?


Or, the Marshall Thundering Herd?


Then there are, as already mentioned, the football helmets of Delaware, Princeton and 100 other shcools including Saline and Clarkston highs schools, right?

Is there an intellectual property difference between the Brooklyn Dodgers:


And the Boston Red Sox?


Clarence Beeks

January 21st, 2010 at 10:09 PM ^

Yeah, that's exactly my point. I know that in some cases those are in fact trademarked and the team lets another use it (e.g. the Packers and Georgia), but that's not typically the case. This is a really bad decision. My guess is that they just had a poor panel and that this will either be reheard en banc or appealed to SCOTUS.

Clarence Beeks

January 21st, 2010 at 10:06 PM ^

I have a feeling USC will appeal this ruling. That representation (i.e. "SC") is all over this state and has been for a long time. I would have to venture a guess that it'll piss a lot of people here off if they don't try to protect their rights to it. From a legal perspective, I think the Federal Circuit blew this one, although I can't be sure without reading the opinion. This ruling doesn't make any sense from an application standpoint as the two logos aren't any more similar than any other interlocking letters that are common used in practice (e.g. "LA", "SF", "NY", etc.). I would venture a guess that on that basis alone this decision will be overturned. However, it's even more egregious when you consider that the letters are the actual and official designation for the state of South Carolina. Looks like I might have to start writing "South Carolina" after my address instead of "SC" lest some moron think that my mail should go to Southern California.


January 21st, 2010 at 8:01 PM ^

I went to Clarkston for a couple of years. It seemed pretty obvious that they were capitalizing on U of M fame with their colors, helmets, and nickname (the "Wolves") but I just kind of assumed that high schools were allowed to do that because they are essentially paying homage to a famed institution. IIRC the Clarkston Middle School teams were called the "Wolverines" and also used maize and blue and perhaps even winged helmets, but I don't remember. When was the lawsuit? What was the outcome?


January 21st, 2010 at 7:01 PM ^

That's a crap ruling. Besides, according to sportslogos.net (have no idea how legit that source is but don't know how to find out otherwise) Southern Cal has been using their logo since 1992; South Carolina since 1983; and Santa Clara since 1978. If anyone has no standing it ought to be Southern Cal.

Scott Dreisbach

January 21st, 2010 at 9:19 PM ^

I had a friend from Waukee, Iowa who said that their high school was being sued by Wisconsin because of their use of a W that resembled the W from the Wisconsin helmet. I thought that was the most outrageous thing I have ever heard. I looked it up, and sure enough, the University of Wisconsin threatened to sue little Waukee High school over a W as a logo. On top of that, I guess they tried suing Washburn University for it. Its pretty pathetic. I put a link below for the details.



January 22nd, 2010 at 12:16 AM ^

The problem is that if they turn the other cheek and not do anything, they can lose right to enforce the trademark against everybody. A lot of times I believe they negotiate a settlement where the HS might pay a small fee for a license to use the trademark and then they can still have protection against other unauthorized users.