SBD/July 17, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

Ohio State Files Trademark-Infringement Lawsuit Against Rhode Island T-Shirt Company

OSU claims T-shirts with the O-H-I-O "wave" were sold without permission
T-shirts featuring a silhouette image of Ohio State Univ. fans forming the letters O-H-I-O are "spelling trouble for a Rhode Island company that has been slapped with a trademark-infringement lawsuit" by the university, according to Tim Feran of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH. The suit says that Teespring Inc., a T-shirt company that uses designs submitted by customers, has "made shirts with various OSU logos, buckeye leaves and images of football coach Urban Meyer -- as well as the O-H-I-O image -- without permission and without paying licensing fees to the university." OSU trademarked the image in '12. OSU complained to Teespring in December and again in January, but the company "hasn’t stopped" printing the designs. The university wants Teespring to "stop its unauthorized use of OSU trademarks and seeks more than" $1M in damages. Ohio-based marketing company Ologie Chief Strategy Officer Bill Faust said that OSU has been "aggressive in protecting its brand." Feran notes the school in recent months "won a similar lawsuit" against Columbus-based T-shirt company Skreened. OSU is "still negotiating" with Skreened over the dollar amount of damages. Faust: “When it comes to protecting trademarks in higher ed, the big public (universities) tend to be more aggressive than anybody else, and tend to be more aggressive on the athletic or spirit side. They’re protecting the revenue stream. There’s so much money in licensing sports icons and mascots.” Teespring, in a filing late last month seeking to have the case dismissed, argued that the company “did not create any shirt designs that OSU alleges infringe its rights,” and that it has “rejected and removed hundreds of potentially infringing campaigns” at the request of intellectual property owners, including OSU (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 7/17).
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