SBD/August 4, 2011/Colleges

Trademark Office Finds Southern Miss Athletic Logo Too Similar To Iowa's

The Univ. of Southern Mississippi's Golden Eagle logo that was unveiled nearly nine years ago "might be in jeopardy because University of Iowa officials say it’s too similar to their Tiger Hawk emblem -- and a three-judge panel agrees,” according to Patrick Magee of the HATTIESBURG AMERICAN. USM’s trademark application for the logo “was denied last week in a 2-1 vote by the three judges in the United States Patent and Trademark Office.” The ruling has left USM’s attorneys “scouring over the 54-page decision to determine the implications.” USM AD Richard Giannini Tuesday said, “Our attorneys are reviewing the decision by the judges. Until we have their review, we’re not really going to comment on it.” Giannini and USM officials “have long argued that the two logos bear little resemblance.” USM unveiled its new Golden Eagle logo in January '03 “in an overhaul of the athletic department’s brand,” and it “quickly became a big part of the school’s athletic identity.” The logo “started to draw criticism from Iowa in 2004 as the school’s officials argued that the two images were confusingly similar.” Administrative trademark judge David Bucher wrote in his majority opinion that he “backed Iowa’s claim that there would be ‘the likelihood of confusion’ in merchandise sales between the two schools.” USM made the case that the “use of birds of prey as mascots is prevalent in college sports along with the use of bird heads as logos.” USM submitted "several examples to back its claim," but Bucher “shot down that argument” (HATTIESBURG AMERICAN, 8/3). Univ. of Iowa officials "remained silent Wednesday" on the logo issue. UI Dir of Athletic Communications Steve Roe said, "University officials don't discuss matters involving pending legal action. We're really not talking about it." However, when asked if UI "intended to follow up Friday's ruling with further legal action, he implied that it's up to USM to make the next move" (HATTIESBURG AMERICAN, 8/4).
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