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The Dartmouth
April 19, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Jack-O-Lantern retains trademark rights to Keggy the Keg

The Jack-O-Lantern sent a cease-and-desist letter to Dirtymouth, an apparel website that had been selling merchandise with images of Keggy the Keg, Dartmouth’s unofficial mascot.

On Aug. 25, the Jack-O-Lantern succeeded in defending the trademark rights to Keggy the Keg, the unofficial college mascot created by ​Jack-O members Nic Duquette ’04 and Chris Plehal ’04 in 2003. The website Dirtymouth Apparel had been selling clothing featuring Keggy, until a cease-and-desist letter from the Jack-O demanded Keggy-related items be taken off the site. 

According to the Jack-O website, “the Jack-O-Lantern’s historical policy on Keggy usage has been to disallow companies or other corporate entities from utilizing the Keggy character for profit.” Despite this policy, and repeated contact from Jack-O executives, Dirtymouth monetized Keggy, according to current Jack-O president Lily Arrom ’25.

Dirtymouth’s and the Jack-O’s engagement began when DJ Kim ’19, owner of Dirtymouth, released “Keggy is Dead” merchandise in 2020 that displayed Keggy with X’s over his eyes, drawing on “parody” protection law to defend his claim. Parody protection law states that certain forms of parodies are exempt from copyright infringement law. Jack-O executives did not contest this claim at the time, according to Arrom. 

When Arrom became president this spring, she noticed that Dirtymouth had begun selling “‘I Heart Keggy’ merch,” which she felt was not protected by the “parody argument.” Arrom researched intellectual property law, citing the Lanham Act which “protects the owner of a federally registered mark against the use of similar marks if such use is likely to result in consumer confusion.” As Arrom put it, “it has to be very clear that it is a parody.”

While looking through old club emails, Arrom discovered that a Dartmouth mother and trademark attorney named Michele Berdinis had offered to help the Jack-O pro bono in 2020. Arrom reached out to Berdinis, who agreed to help once again. 

According to Arrom, Berdinis helped to refile the federal trademark for Keggy and sent a cease-and-desist letter to Kim. Those items on Dirtymouth were taken down after the cease-and-desist letter. 

On Sept. 11, Kim posted on Instagram at @dirtymouthapparel that “it’s time to say goodbye to Dirtymouth.” 

Arrom defended this outcome in an interview. 

“We’re protecting the Jack-O-Lantern’s rights to Keggy and maintaining the character for student expression, not personal profit,” Arrom said.

The Instagram post also announced an auction, with a starting bid of $1, to find Dirtymouth’s next owners, one of whom must be a Dartmouth student or alum. Dirtymouth went on to add “some disclaimers,” namely that the website has received multiple cease-and-desist orders from both the College and the Jack-O-Lantern. Dirtymouth instructed future owners not to “use any of the Dartmouth trademarks or apply for a license” and avoid using the Keggy the Keg trademark.

The end of Dirtymouth has received mixed reactions on the Dartmouth campus. Ansh Motiani ’26 said he owns one of their hoodies depicting a parody of the Polo Ralph Lauren bear in a Dartmouth sweatshirt.

“The Dartmouth official merch is kind of mediocre,” Motiani said. “I feel like Dirtymouth had more interesting, fun stuff that students would like wearing more.”

The original creators of Keggy, Duquette and Plehal, both offered guidance to Arrom during the litigation process. Arrom credited the two former Jack-O members with providing historical context for Keggy and supporting the club’s legal efforts.

“I’m glad that the situation has resolved calmly, and I’m grateful that the Jack-O will continue to care for Keggy and protect him for future generations of Dartmouth students, as previous Jack-O students have been doing for the past 20 years,” Duquette wrote in a statement. 

In a written statement, Plehal asked a question about the purpose of Keggy. 

“This whole thing raised the question of, ‘Who is Keggy for?’” Plehal wrote. “In my mind, the answer has always been Dartmouth students. Keggy is a silly tradition that can be carried on as long as students enjoy it, but he shouldn’t be used for personal gain.” 

Correction (10:27 a.m., Sep. 15, 2023): A previous version of this article reported that the entire Dirtymouth website was taken down after the Jack-O-Lantern's cease-and-desist letter. In fact, only the items relating to the Jack-O's trademark over Keggy the Keg were impacted. The entire Dirtymouth website came offline afterwards.