Logo designer suing UI for ownership of image

By Ann Coultas

The man who designed the Chief logo has filed a lawsuit against the University to gain control of the image.

Jack Davis, who created the image while he was a University student, is suing the University for violating the original agreement made when he allowed them to use the logo.

Robert Auler, the lawyer representing Davis, said Davis created the now-divisive image to be a unifying symbol for athletic teams.

“He had the idea in 1980 that the University’s athletic teams needed a unifying logo,” Auler said. “He spoke with the University’s (then) associate athletic director, Vance Redfern, about supplying a unifying logo.”

Auler said that in an oral agreement in 1980 between Redfern and Davis, Davis agreed to allow the University to use the image free of charge. If the logo was rejected or not used to represent all athletic teams, control would go back to Davis.

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“Generally, the statute of frauds says that if you have a contract that’s exercisable over a year, than it must be in writing, so you don’t get into arguments over who said what from 20 years ago, when memories fade and evidence is lost,” said University alumnus Justin Karubas, partner at the law firm of Rolewick and Gutzke, located in Wheaton, Ill.

The image was used as the symbol for athletic teams until a decision handed down by the Board of Trustees on March 13, 2007, called for the “immediate conclusion to the use of Native American imagery as the symbol of the University of Illinois and its intercollegiate athletics.”

One of the contentions is that control over the image should have reverted to Davis after that resolution was passed, Auler said. Davis filed for a trademark the day after the resolution was announced, but the University opposed his registration.

Auler said the only claim of ownership the University has made is that the logo is trademarked.

“Under trademark law, if you don’t use it you lose it,” Auler said. “The Board of Trustees resolution in March said it cannot be the symbol. That amounts to the abandonment of it as a trademark.”

According to a statement from University spokeswoman Robin Kaler, the University intends to maintain ownership of the trademarked logo.

“The University has continued to market the logo on T-shirts and other things through various marketing arms. This is inconsistent with the direct resolution of the Board of Trustees,” Auler said.

In the statement, Kaler said the University’s use of the logo complies with University and NCAA policies.

“We are working with Collegiate Licensing Company to add the Chief logo and related word marks to the items we currently have in their ‘College Vault’ program,” the statement said. College Vault is a brand that sells apparel and accessories with retired university images and logos.

Auler said Davis is not requesting money, but he wants to see the image treated respectfully.

“He thinks that he has a stewardship for the people who respect the Chief logo and want it to be used in a dignified way so that they can continue their appreciation and loyalty of the logo,” Auler said.