With schools strapped for cash, districts are looking for new or increasing revenue sources. For many years, colleges and universities have trademarked names and logos—mostly for athletic teams—and have developed a revenue stream from licensing apparel and other products bearing the trademarks. Trademarks may be registered for school names, logos, colors, and even mascots. More recently, school districts have followed the trend and have begun to apply for and receive state and federal trademark registrations. Here are just a couple examples of trademarks registered by school districts:
Once a school district has registered its trademarks, it has the exclusive right to make and sell products bearing the marks and may license others to make and sell the products in exchange for paying a royalty to the school district. School districts may sign up with marketing organizations—such as the Licensing Resource Group—that will assist the school district in marketing apparel, mugs, calendars, pens, and anything else you can think of to alumni and fans nationwide.
To begin taking advantage of your school district’s names and logos, here are the steps to take:
- Identify the names, logos, mascot designs, and color combinations that are unique to your school district
- Have a trademark attorney perform a search of existing trademark registrations to make sure that your trademarks are not already registered by someone else
- Register your trademarks on the federal and state trademark registers
- Either develop a marketing and licensing affiliate program on your own, or contract with a licensing organization that works with schools
With school districts having thousands of alumni, students, siblings, parents, and relatives who may want to own products displaying the school’s names and logos, a trademark licensing plan offers the opportunity to increase revenue and school pride at the same time!
Paul Perlman is a partner in the Employment Litigation Practice at Hodgson Russ LLP. You can reach him at .