How using a trademarked logo as your own can cost you
Recently, news broke that Rutgers University asked Ruston High School to stop using their trademarked logo. According to Rutgers spokeswoman Dory Devlin, “The university addresses trademark infringement issues to avoid confusion among brands and to ensure its logos are used for their intended purpose.”
Sounds reasonable enough, right? Well, I guess that depends on who you ask.
A quick look at pretty much any of the message boards on this topic will lead you to an irate public blasting Rutgers for their actions as well as accusing them of being selfish as they attack a high school. But doesn’t Rutgers have a right to protect their brand? And shouldn’t schools that infringe on someone else’s intellectual property be held accountable?
Even recent Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Keven Mawae contributed to the fray as he condemned Rutgers on Twitter for suing Ruston High. Rutgers responded by stating that they only issued a cease-and-desist letter, which the high school willingly replied.
While most infractions like these are not malicious, they are still wrong, and often due to a lack of effort to not only invest in their own authentic brand, but respect the investment of others in theirs.
Think about it. What does it say about an educational institution that chooses to “borrow” a trademarked brand and use it as its own? How do they hold the moral high ground when telling students they should never plagiarize another author’s work?
As a branding agency, we have been involved in the re-branding of schools that found themselves in similar situations, and each time it was never their intent to do anything wrong. Fortunately, they made the decision to change before they were requested or ordered to do so.
Obviously, the best way to avoid this is to develop your own identity from the beginning. If you find yourself way beyond that point, and know you are using a trademarked logo as your own, then perhaps a plan of action to change that is in order.
In the end, it’s easy to blame the organization attempting to protect its brand, but in reality, the blame needs to fall on the organization that chose to “borrow” it in the first place.
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