Thursday, October 25, 2012

Why Universities Should Not be "Run Like a Business"

Recently, the University of Connecticut (my alma mater and my employer) notified a Connecticut High School that it must cease using a mascot logo that resembles the trademarked logo of the UConn Huskies. In showing such poor exercise of its discretion to enforce a legal right, UConn joins the ranks of the University of Missouri, Penn State and the University of Alabama; institutions that have famously exercised their substantial legal muscle to cause weaker parties to knuckle under the weight of an unnecessary and mean spirited exercise of legal rights.

According to reports, UConn notified the Morgan School, a public high school in Clinton, Conn. with fewer than 600 students, that it must cease using its Morgan Husky logo. The University alleges that continued use of the logo by the Morgan Huskies "could interfere with UConn's ability to effectively market and license the use of the logo."

Seriously? Apparently those husky emblazoned coffee mugs occasionally given out to the Morgan School teacher of the year are depressing the market for "authentically licensed" UConn Husky coffee mugs.

Here is another gem of a quote from a University official: “We’re looking for them to eliminate it from uniforms and so forth … and basically come up with a new logo that doesn’t serve as copyright infringement.”  Er ... or maybe that was trademark infringement.

In defense of the University's position, perhaps there might be some consumer confusion regarding the products of the 2 institutions. The way the UConn Huskies football team has been playing, could they conceivably be mistaken for the 1-4 Class S High School Morgan Huskies football team?

The first lesson in business ethics: Just because you have a legal right doesn't mean you have to exercise it. Exercise discretion. It's a lesson that is too often unheeded. A university, especially a public university, should take a leadership role in its state. That means that there are considerations that are more important than the bottom line. But then, that would be very unbusiness-like.

I hope none of you kids were hoping to dress up as a husky for Halloween. You may be interfering with the all important marketing strategy for State U.  I guess this is the price that you pay for having big time athletics - boneheaded decisions justified on the basis of "business."

Watch out UConn! A Canadian Territory wants its name back!

The registered UConn trademark:

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The Morgan School football field logo - that will cost $20,000 to replace.

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The Morgan Husky trademark on the gym floor actually does not closely resemble this UConn trademark. It does look a little like a registered trademark that the University abandoned several years ago and does not use any longer.

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The abandoned UConn trademark

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Who is the next?  The Hope Community Charter School (pre-k to 6)?  Will consumers soon be confusing them with the UConn Huskies?  How's their football team?

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Watch out Prairie Trade Middle School!:

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Watch out Husky Safe-T-Break Valve, Co.

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And Husky Corp:

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Jonathan, the UConn Husky Mascot:

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A white dog - the next target?

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The UConn fight song:

Sideways copyright infringement by someone named Allie. Watch out, Allie! The lawyers are coming.

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