Federal Court Rules Schools Can Protect Their Colors; LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC and the Collegiate Licensing Company Win Landmark Case
In a landmark decision, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of Louisiana State University, The Ohio State University, the University of Oklahoma, the University of Southern California and The Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC), the nation's largest collegiate trademark licensing company, holding Defendant Smack Apparel Company (http://www.smackapparel.com/index.php) liable for intentional trademark infringement based on its use of the recognizable and historic colors of some of the nation's most powerful collegiate athletic teams.
“This also serves to protect the marketplace position of legitimate retailers and licensees who deserve to be protected against competition from infringers.”
"This ruling further validates the efforts of universities to protect their brands against unlawful use of their respective trademarks, colors, and other identifying indicia," said Bruce Siegal, Senior Vice President and General Counsel for The Collegiate Licensing Company. "This also serves to protect the marketplace position of legitimate retailers and licensees who deserve to be protected against competition from infringers."
The ruling means that the Defendant can no longer use LSU's purple and gold and Oklahoma's crimson and cream, Ohio State's scarlet and gray, and USC's cardinal and gold in producing apparel that refers, but not necessarily by name, to those universities.
The Court's decision is important in that few courts across the country have ever directly addressed the issue of color schemes as stand-alone trademarks.
"The University is pleased that the court has confirmed that our Scarlet and Gray color scheme is an integral and protectable component of our brand message," said Rob Cleveland, Assistant Director of Trademark & Licensing Services, The Ohio State University. "This serves to validate 128 years of Scarlet and Gray tradition and ultimately strengthen our position in the stream of commerce."
The Plaintiffs were represented by Kilpatrick Stockton LLP.
Images of infringing products exhibited in this case can be downloaded at http://www.clc.com/.