Vendors struggle with logo

Getting a license to use the University’s trademarks can be tough for businesses.
February 11, 2014

When it comes to the use of its logos, the University of Minnesota can be stringent.

A local printing shop has been trying to get licensed to use University trademarks and logos since 2008, but it has continually been denied.

All requests to use the logo go through the school’s Office of Trademark Licensing and are inspected for use that may be questionable or could adversely affect the University’s image, said Marketing Manager Philip Kelley.

The University systematically rejects attempts to align trademarks with alcohol, cigarettes, firearms or products pertaining to sex, religion or politics, he said.

“In that sense, we are very protective,” Kelley said.

The University consults the Collegiate Licensing Company to manage its trademarks. The company, which has eight Big Ten schools as clients, trains approved external vendors to accurately produce the schools’ logos. This ensures trademarks aren’t distorted or printed in the wrong color, Kelley said.

“Any vendor can be [licensed]; they just need to apply and go through the training process,” he said.

Matt Price, general manager of Underground Printing in Dinkytown, said the business’s customer base spans the Twin Cities but a large chunk of its sales comes from student groups.

Without the license, he said, he has to turn away customers whose designs include Goldy Gopher or the Block “M.”

Price said Underground Printing has franchises at universities around the country, including most Big Ten institutions. He said almost all the other locations are licensed to print their respective collegiate logos.

Underground Printing Owner Rishi Narayan told the Minnesota Daily in 2008 that he hoped to get a license when he opened the Dinkytown location that year.

“We’ve applied to become licensed multiple times and keep getting denied,” Price said. “To me, it’s a big deal.”

But allowing others to reproduce the trademarks could jeopardize the University’s possession of them. If too many inaccurate reproductions surface, Kelley said, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office could rule the school doesn’t control the logos and could revoke its ownership.

Fraudulent reproductions force the University into legal action “only a few times per year,” he said.

“I would say we are as protective as any other organization would be,” Kelley said.

The University has two logo incarnations of its mascot: Leaning Goldy and Running Goldy. University Relations must approve any design using Goldy as “a graphic element,” according to University brand guidelines.

Registered student organizations on all University campuses can use the Block “M” and mascot images, but they cannot use any other University trademarks, like the Spring Jam logo.

If student groups and area businesses are making Spring Jam-related items, they have to put alternate names on any apparel or signs they make in place of the real thing.

Colleges Against Cancer Communications Director Sydney Ruen said the American Cancer Society’s guidelines suggest listing the group as “of” a university. But Minnesota has requested the group say “at” the University to be clear the two are not directly affiliated.

The University collects royalties on trademark licenses and for sales of products thereafter, but Kelley said small companies are given as much of a chance to get licenses as large ones.

Price said the University told Underground Printing that it has been denied because the market is saturated.

“But we’re the only printer on campus,” he said. “It’s kind of funky.”

Price said the 6-year-old franchise will continue applying for a license.

“A lot of our business is the University community,” he said. “We’re going to keep trying.”

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