Archive for February 15, 2007

University of Texas Lawyers Get an A+ in Brand Damagement

Saw Em OffThe Lawyers of the University of Texas have lost their minds. They are suing Fadi Kalaouze, the operator of Aggieland Outfitters and Inspirations ( a combination of three stores that sell Aggie T-shirts), for the sell of their “SAW ‘EM OFF” T-Shirt Design. The UT lawyers are asking for Fadi Kalaouze and Kalcorp Enterprises to stop sales of “SAW ‘EM OFF!” merchandise and they are asking to recover alleged damages for past sales.

Fadi’s response to UT states that “SAW ‘EM OFF!” is an obvious parody of the UT trademark that could confuse no one seeking to buy products sponsored by and promoting UT, and that UT has waived any right to complain by waiting for almost 10 years.

The University of Stanford describes fair use as:

a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose such as to comment upon, criticize or parody a copyrighted work.

and

A parody is a work that ridicules another, usually well-known work, by imitating it in a comic way. Judges understand that by its nature, parody demands some taking from the original work being parodied. Unlike other forms of fair use, a fairly extensive use of the original work is permitted in a parody in order to “conjure up” the original.

Now there is another issue here, one that borders on common sense. The issue involves the notion that the University of Texas is actually damaging it’s own brand by a law suit that involves suing a rival school for a competitve sports T-shirt design that demonstrates a clear change to the logo design for the purpose of parody. It hasn’t yet, but could turn into a PR nightmare for U.T.

Famous rivalry fuels competitive brands: The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Socks. Michigan and Ohio State. Florida and Florida State. Duke and North Carolina. The competition allows them to acheive a reach far beyond the borders of their state or conference. They become famous for it. They get national air time on television, and sell out venues with hard to come by game tickets. The Longhorns and the Aggies are such rivals.

In elementary schools in the state of Texas it is common to by spirit ribbons for your “high school’s football team” blazened with phrases and parodies like “SQUASH THE YELLOWJACKETS” and “TRASH THE TIGERS”. These ribbons are sold and come complete with a parody of the rival school logo.

So what does it look like to the world when one of the largest United States universities sues a T-shirt company for the parody of their logo for rival sports games?

It looks like they are a bunch of weasels.

U.T. and Austin Texas has always had a brand impression to me of being a place for free thinking and an institute for premier education it Texas. How does it make U.T. students and supporters feel to know that their school is suing an Aggie T-shirt company for a funny t-shirt. Don’t let your school create a brand defamation of itself. The UT Lawyers should sue themselves.

BTW, I went to Texas Tech.

February 15, 2007 at 3:24 pm 2 comments


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