Restrictions abound for logo users

by Allison Caffrey | 11/7/02 6:00am

While many students, parents and alumni spend countless amounts of money on official Dartmouth College apparel, few probably know the legal process that companies like Jansport and Pro-Line Cap Company go through to produce these products.

Any company that wishes to use the Dartmouth name, logo or insignia must go through the office of the General Counsel, and more specifically, the trademark-licensing officer. Robert Donin, the College's General Counsel, estimated that Dartmouth has approximately 100 outstanding trademark licenses, all of which must be renewed annually.

Donin said that while it is very common for colleges and universities to license their trademarks to apparel companies, not just anyone who wants one is granted a license by Dartmouth. There is a set of three main criteria that each company must meet in order to be eligible for a license.

The first criterion that the trademark licensing officer considers is the appropriateness of the item, Donin said. The College has no problems with a company putting the Dartmouth logo on a hat or a sweatshirt. However, the reputation of the College stands to be tarnished if the logo were to appear on an item that the College deemed inappropriate.

Similar to the first criterion, the second issue that is taken into consideration is the quality of the product that a prospective company is hoping to manufacture. Much like the issue of appropriateness, the College does not want its name attached to anything not of the finest quality, Donin said.

The final issue, according to Donin, is probably the most important and is not open to negotiation. For a company to be licensed by Dartmouth, they must be a member of the Fair Labor Association.

The FLA is a group of companies including Nike, Adidas and Patagonia, allied with 176 higher-education institutions. The association bills itself as "a non-profit organization combining the efforts of industry, non-governmental organizations, colleges and universities to promote adherence to international labor standards and improve working conditions worldwide."

Todd Spilleto of Jansport said that these criteria are not very difficult to meet. "Most companies have similar standards for their own merchandise, and many would belong to the FLA regardless of whether or not a client required it."

Once the trademark-licensing officer decides that a company meets all of these requirements, there is one more step before they can be licensed. They must sign Dartmouth's trademark contract.

The contract is for a one-year term and requires that the licensee pay Dartmouth 7 percent in royalties. According to Donin, Dartmouth's is a fairly standard contract throughout the industry, but that there are small variances from company to company and from college to college.

Joel Taylor, Sales and Marketing Manager at Pro-Line Caps, agreed, saying "Most colleges and universities have similar trademarking rules."

Donin said that the revenue that the college makes by licensing out the logo is "not large, but not trivial."

A vast majority of the companies obey Dartmouth's licensing process, but occasionally, a corporation may use the name, logo or insignia without permission. In those cases, Donin's office issues a cease-and-desist order, which allows Dartmouth to seize the illegal merchandise and force its production to stop.