Company sued for offering products with school’s name

Glenn W. Peterson

The argument for what is and what is not intellectual or trademarked property may seem fairly cut-and-dry: if it is the product of a person or organization’s creative mind, then it is their property. Yet there may be times when the question of IP disputes in Sacramento does not come down to the nature of the property being disputed itself, but rather ancillary processes and semantics. Those looking to utilize another’s creative properties without authorization may attempt to come up with creative ways to get around the regulations protecting them (even following methods that may appear to be perfectly legal).

This is what is being alleged in a lawsuit filed by Penn State University against a sports memorabilia company. In its lawsuit, the university says that the company’s owner has attempted to benefit off its reputation by selling products that cite both the school’s name and mascot. The owner of the memorabilia company offers products that appear to be affiliated with a number of different sports teams, and that it has filed to trademark product names using the team’s names (or those of their sponsoring institutions) with federal offices in the past, yet been rejected due to obvious infringement issues. To get around this, the owner has now started filing for trademarks through state offices, which reportedly do not check for the likelihood of confusion with other trademarked properties. In its lawsuit, the university has asked (among other things) that the company stop selling and hand over any products bearing its name.

The differences between state and federal trademark regulations highlight just how complex intellectual property cases can be. One’s chances of successfully arguing one may be bolstered if they have an experienced attorney on their side.