Monday, November 29, 2010

No Logo, No Game

Recently, The New York Times reported on colleges and universities going after high schools for copyright infringement; some high schools have been using logos that are too reminiscent of colleges' trademarked icons. Adam Himmelsbach reports that one such school, Glades Day School of Florida, recently had to change its Gator logo because of similarities to the University of Florida's trademark. In many instances, schools simply choose to go along with the changes; Himmelsbach cites trademark lawyer Dineen Wayslik as saying, "The problem when you’re a defendant is you can spend the money to fight it, and if you lose, you also have to spend the money to change everything."

The question, of course, is what's in a symbol. For many schools, this imitation is a sincere form of flattery, a choice based on an athletic director or school leader's alumni status. (Such is the case with the Robert Egley, a Florida alum and headmaster of the Glades Day School.)

I'm not trying to discount the copyright issue here at all; what I am questioning, however, is everything that these use of symbols mean. The relationship between schools, the sort of cultural code that we've embedded into these things. Consider that this is made worse by the fact that high schools are now trademarking their logos.

Logos are a shorthand way, a pictorial way, of conveying a message; in some ways, these are like themes or images recurring throughout literature. The shared images create a kind of common history, a shared narrative thread. But the change in logos, the cease-and-desist orders being sent by colleges and universities, threatens to unravel these relationships.

Like any good story, it's a muddy issue, rife with concerns from copyright issues to originality. (How many gator logos can possibly be created?) But it's an interesting one with some points that should be well considered.


  1. Maybe SU should think to copyright its mascot. I could see people wanting to steal the "tiger with a mask and a cape" idea for all the (probably) Christian schools that identify as Crusaders. It's only a natural choice: tiger=Crusader. Note: High degree of sarcasm. -KED

  2. @AnonymousI'm still surprised that D.C. Comics/Warner Brothers haven't sued SU over nicknaming that Tiger "the Caped Crusader." I mean, Holy 1960s Batman, sports fans!