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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Filed Under: colors, fans, sporting events, trademark, university of cincinnati


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  1. icon
    Hulser (profile), 7 Jan 2010 @ 7:04am

    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.)

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