You Can't Be A Fan Of University Of Cincinnati's Sports Teams Unless You've Paid The Proper License

from the don't-wear-red-and-black dept

In response to our recent post about whether or not a company like Black & Decker could legally resell sporting event tickets without being an “official sponsor” of the event, Public Citizen’s Paul Alan Levy wrote about how it wasn’t that long ago that anyone could make their own fan gear. And then greed set in:


The case is reminiscent of a revenue grab by sports teams in the 1980’s. At one time, anybody could make up a shirt that said “Dallas Cowboys” or “Boston Red Sox”, and then wear it or sell it. The fans wearing those shirts didn’t care one whit about whether the Cowboys or Red Sox made the shirt or had taken a cut of the shirt-makers’ revenue. But Major League Baseball and the National Football League, armed with surveys created by consumer survey expert Jacob Jacoby, started filing lawsuits claiming that some minority of fans would automatically assume that the Cowboys or Red Sox had endorsed or at least approved of the shirt sellers. By winning a couple of cases, they created a new rule of law — you can’t sell shirts showing support for a team without paying the team off for the privilege of doing so.

That has since expanded further and further, including college sports teams as well. Reader Sys Admin alerts us to a story out of Cincinnati, where the University of Cincinnati is being so aggressive in enforcing these sorts of claims that it says pretty much any type of clothing that might be mistaken as supporting the team (t-shirts with red and black? watch out…) it needs a license. The University says it doesn’t matter if the University’s name or logo isn’t on the clothing at all. Even a shirt that says “Go Cats!” needs a license. Even worse, they’re not just looking to stop people from selling such clothing, they’re happily putting them in jail for it.

Be careful what teams you cheer for, and what color clothes you wear when you do…

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Comments on “You Can't Be A Fan Of University Of Cincinnati's Sports Teams Unless You've Paid The Proper License”

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28 Comments

I Hate Cats

What if I sold a red and black t-shirt that said “I Hate the University of Cincinnati (and their cats)”? It’s not trademark abuse, because no moron in a hurry would ever assume that the University of Cincinnati endorsed such a shirt. As for copyright, adverse criticism is protected under fair use.

I foresee a future in which local peddlers of team gear start catering to visitors rooting for the opposing team.

:)says:

That is great!

I think it is great.

Hope this happens a lot more often so people start to pay attention to the insanity that IP laws have become.

Those things will hurt any economy and will start hurting the public and when that happens law or no law attitudes will change.

People will start discriminating more about what they do and who they support.

Hulsersays:

Re:

That’s actually a very good point. If your new business model for making money from your infinite good is to sell related scarce goods, isn’t this business model undermined by not being able to control the scarce good? With more advanced devices, like the iPhone, it’s not so easy to be a copy cat. You may be able to copy some of the features, but it’s harder to copy other things, like customer support levels or even the prestige from owning a particular product. But what about (looooooots of) t-shirts? Doesn’t something as simple as a t-shirt lend itself to being copied? Nobody needs support for a t-shirt and the “prestige” comes from what’s on the t-shirt, not the t-shirt itself.

Sure, there are other scarce items which can’t be copied that can be sold, such as lunch with the artist or a chance to sing on the album. But, it does seems like not being able to control your trademark removes one of the popular pillars of the new “sell scarce products” model.

(The issue of course is where to draw the line. “Go cats!” on a t-shirt? Meh, seems OK. “Go UC Bearcats!” on a t-shirt? That gets a little more murky.)

Vincent Clementsays:

Re: Re:

The merchandise is not necessarily scare. Blank T-shirts are pretty cheap to manufacture. The scare item would be the sale of “Official” t-shirts by the University of Cincinnati.

Sure, you could buy a knock-off, but that may open you to being called out by ‘real’ fans. It may not be worth the ridicule.

Jim Csays:

Cease and Desist

The University of South Carolina should be able to put a stop to this. Our school colors are Garnet and Black. The “red” and black of the University of Cincinnati is obviously a rip off of our colors. Few morons in a hurry would distinguish between Garnet and red. Therefore they must immediately stop using their colors.

(as many people cannot readily detect it online, heavy sarcasm is being used)

isaac Kotlickysays:

I smell a franchise opportunity...

OO! Create disclaimer T-Shirts that specifically state that the team does not endorse this fan T-shirt:
* This t-shirt is not endorsed by XXX University
* This t-shirt is not endorsed by XXX Band
* This t-shirt is not endorsed by XXX Company

in BIG contrasting letters right in the front in order to avoid confusion. That way, nobody can claim false endorsement.

Then we can add an optional clause on the back:
XXX Team/University/Band/Company were/are idiots for punishing their fans.

Or something.

DIBS! So don’t you all be stealing my idea. 😉

fUCk 'em.

You would think a university with a first tier law school would know better but UC is rather notorious for its blatant violation of law and ethics wherever possible, from slashing professors to cover the $17M deposit needed to build an “Ivy league class” stadium for their 82nd-ranked football team to illegal land swaps and tax dodges used to buy up adjoining properties and slap up unneeded buildings.

joseycarrsays:

University of Cincinnati Brand

As an alumni, I shiver at the thought my UC has been “branded” and has become more about money than about its essence. UC, in times gone by, was about education, integrity, commitment to one another and working toward a common goal to better our community and our world. Now, it will cost you to show these things…now it’s all about the money! SHAME ON YOU! Where are the grownups in this endeavor…have you sold our collective soul for an almighty buck…and not even toward UC’s ultimate goal, education!

The Anti-Mikesays:

Title is sort of misleading

You Can’t Be A Fan Of University Of Cincinnati’s Sports Teams Unless You’ve Paid The Proper License

you can be a fan, you just can’t make your own cheap knockoff official products.

Aren’t t-shirts and other things like this the scarce goods that are suppose to pay the bills in the future of entertainment?

You can’t have it both ways.

Vincent Clementsays:

Re: Title is sort of misleading

By definition a knockoff is not an official product. The scarce item here is not the t-shirt or even the things printed on that shirt. It’s the fact that it is the official t-shirt.

You can buy knockoffs of plenty of sports teams if you look hard enough. “Real fans” will typically spend the extra money to get the official good anyways.

Funny how you believe that Google will pay a price with the whole Nexus trademark/copyright dispute, but it’s okay for the University of Cincinnati to piss off it’s fans.

Who is having it both ways?

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