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College

“saw ’em off”

The University of Texas Board of Regents are suing a College Station retailer for trademark violations. The store sells various T-shirts with the UT Longhorn logo with horns that are cut off and hanging next to the head. UT is claiming trademark dilution while the Aggie defense is claiming freedom of expression. Some of the reaction I’ve heard from the Aggie side of the fence is that UT is bitter about the recent Thanksgiving weekend loss in football or some other school pride issue.
I’ve exchanged a couple of messages with an Aggie whom I found through a Facebook post. He asked me my thoughts on the lawsuit and mentioned how he feels it is related to the football loss. Earlier in the day, I briefly read through the complaint filed by UT and the response filed by the retailer. I think the Aggies aren’t fully aware of our desire for brand purity. My response to his question is below:
Hey,
With the lawsuit, in all honesty, the suits downtown at the System office couldn’t care less about the football victory or loss. From a student’s perspective, I haven’t heard much of anything about it since the Monday sports recap after the game.
The UT System/Board of Regents’ office is removed enough from UT-Austin to where a lot of the school pride is removed from the governance from my experience. (One of the volunteers at the church I work for has been a vice chancellor for some time and just stepped down to a “director” of one of the offices at the System complex.) [Don’t get me wrong, the UT alumni who work there are proud of UT, but not the same type of pride that A&M alumni seem to posses.]
UT, on the other hand, cares a great deal about branding issues and trademark dilution. We’ve successfully forced dining establishments to change their name (their old name was “Bevo’s”) and have made a large effort to pursue merchants who sell unlicensed versions of clothing or other items bearing our trademarks, including the Longhorn logo in question in the lawsuit.
During the 2005-2006 academic year, our income from royalties derived from licensed sales increased to $8 million dollars- the highest of any university in the country. Our strong brand and the public’s ability to recognize that brand is a crucial aspect of that income. In other words, UT lawyers are not worried about UT students not able to tell the difference, but the many fans we have who, despite no actual connection to the University, wish to show their support by buying t-shirts.
Licensed products help support the university and act as a way we improve our academic footprint without having to raise tuition higher than we already had to. The UT System’s administration will do what it can to preserve this income source.
Unlicensed products, or unlicensed alterations of our trademark- like the “Saw ‘Em Off” design, chip away at our brand integrity and if our brand weakens, we potentially lose some of our royalty incomes from especially unaffiliated purchasers.
Regarding the UT/A&M rivalry, UT itself suggested a different design for “Saw ‘Em Off”. The suggested design was of a more realistic looking longhorn with broken horns. If A&M, or Aggieland Outfitters, want to preserve this aspect of the rivalry, UT encourages it, as long as it doesn’t dilute our trademark.
I am curious of what the outcome will be. If you hear of anything new and have a chance, let me know. It appears that this is getting more press coverage in College Station than Austin.
Take care,
Kraft

By Brandon Kraft

My life is an open-source book.

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