University retains Chief logo rights

By Jonathan Wroble

On Friday, the University and College Licensing Company officially announced the decision to retain the rights to the Chief Illiniwek logo.

The announcement came less than one month after the Board of Trustees’ March 13 meeting in which the retirement of the Chief mascot was ratified. The board, however, did not make the final choice regarding the logo at that meeting.

“The Board of Trustees turned the issue over to the chancellor in its last meeting,” said Marty Kaufmann, assistant athletic director. “(He) ultimately made the decision of how the University should proceed.”

Along with retaining the rights to the Chief logo, the University will discontinue the production and shipping of products containing the logo, the word “Chief,” or the words “Chief Illiniwek.”

The first step in this initiative was to send out a news release to more than 400 University licensees – manufacturers who are officially permitted to create products with the Chief logo. According to the release, these licensees have until April 16 to book orders for Chief products.

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Kaufmann called this a “short period of time but a reasonable period of time.” He said that it creates a “level playing field” between bigger licensees like Nike and smaller licensees like Gameday Sports.

“We wanted to give local business owners … two weeks to really order some (merchandise),” Kaufmann said.

After the April 16 deadline, licensees have until June 15 to ship orders of Chief products. Any licensee with an order scheduled to ship after June 15 must get approval from College Licensing Company by submitting a letter detailing the number of products sold, the involved retailers and the shipping date.

“No reasonable request is going to be denied,” Kaufmann said.

No order, however, is allowed to ship after Dec. 31.

Robin Kaler, University spokesperson, stressed the fact that these three deadlines refer to licensees, not retailers. The University cannot legally tell retailers when to stop selling merchandise, so a Chief product could theoretically sit on the shelves forever if no one buys it.

But that is not the anticipated result. The University expects Chief merchandise to sell fairly quickly, especially products that arrive before June 15, Kaufmann said.

The University also expects a rise in unauthorized use of the Chief logo. Some counterfeit goods have already been caught on Web sites like eBay.com and CafePress.com.

“Since the Board’s decision (to retire the Chief), there has been more (unauthorized use of the logo),” Kaufmann said. “(It’s) mainly people trading a small number of shirts for online sale.”

Kaufmann estimates that the University shuts down six to eight Web sites in a typical year. Within the last few months, it has shut down two to three sites because of counterfeit logos.

To shut down future sites, the University will use the same policy that has been in place for more than twenty years, which involves sending cease and desist letters to unauthorized manufacturers and vendors. In light of the logo decision, Kaufmann expects a “ramped-up effort of what already occurs.”

“We’re already looking for merchandise that isn’t licensed,” he said. “We just ask that we know what’s out there.”