November 20, 2006

We own the W.

When it's the Motion W.


MadisonMan said...

Ah yes, the UW as a bully, going after high schools with the temerity to have a W that looks like the ugly motion W. What a complete waste of money and time. Well, I guess Ms. van Matre has to do something to earn her $50K+ per annum, and I'm guessing that beating up on High Schools lets her say "I've stopped 25 instances of Motion W abuse this year!!" and her bosses are then happy.

Ann Althouse said...

The logo is a valuable trademark. You have to protect it if you want to profit from it.

Bruce Hayden said...

To start with, I am not a trademark expert, just know enough to be dangerous. Did some TM work before I went into corporate practice over a decade ago, but haven't since.

But UW would seem to have some problems here:
- Commercial use - Sure, UW uses the mark commercially, but do the high schools? I would think that their commercial use would be de minimis.
- Liklihood of confusion - Most of the time, the W in high schools is going to be used with other letters, most likely in a similar script, etc. If you see their school initials in that font, are you likely to think: Oh, the University of Wisconson? Or, visa versa?

Ann Althouse said...

Bruce: It's the Motion W!

Pogo said...

This kind of legal battle, where Goliath stomps all over a teenaged non-profit David, showcases the excesses of the American lawyer.

Yes, I understand how a logo can become property, and why this must be defended. But here UW Madison Wisconsin "has notified Westside, Weir High and 19 other schools across the nation that the university registered the W in 1996 as a trademark and no one can use or sell anything that uses it without permission". In other words, legal bullying against minor infractions.

If you see the Waukee High School logo side-by-side with UW Madison's, they are quite (but not exactly) similar. More to the point: Would anyone confuse the high school with Wisconsin? No. But who cares? There's legal make-work to accomplish.

From the same story, this fascinating sidelight: "Some would say the school is getting what it deserves for being too politically correct. Others would say Waukee is being punished for trying to do the right thing.
Not too long ago, Waukee dumped its American Indian logo and held a contest to find a replacement. Hence the new W."

gophermomeh said...

It seems to me, that the UW is acting as a bully, here. It would be to their advantage to actually promote the use of the motion-W, especially withing the State of Wisconsin - for potential recruits and goodwill to the university, as a whole. It's good exposure.

Also, just from the recent state football championships, there was a high school that had a motion-H on thier helmets. So, as long as your school doesn't start with a W, it's ok?

Henry said...

Well if Westside High must change their logo, here's an option:

And here's one for Upsala High, Minnesota:

All fair game, right?

Anonymous said...

Bah. UW should take a page from the Green Bay Packers, who don't seem to have a problem with Georgia and Grambling using their trademarked logo, or with any of the dozens of businesses using "Titletown" in their names.

MadisonMan said...

I think the problem is that the UW is convinced it will lose money by these people using their motion W -- no doubt those in the office of trademark infractions at the Athletic Department have sold them this idea, and they're keeping their jobs as a result. Oh, we have to sue these High Schools or we'll lose hundreds of thousands or dollars per year!. Riiiight.

I guess my underlying argument is that the motion W is not valuable. Perhaps that's heresy here at the UW.

gophermomeh said...

The motion-W is, by far, the worst of the three prominent logos that the UW uses - the other two being Bucky and the W-shield (as originally found on the fieldhouse)...Those two get to go on my cars, the motion-
W doesn't.

Shawn L. said...

"Big business bullies small guy over trademark" stories are a dime a dozen. Most of the time the "Bully" did nothing more than minimal trademark defence, sending out a Cease & Desist letter. In many of these cases the C&D letter is only issued to say that they made the minimal effort necessary to defend the trademark. Only in more serious cases does legal action ever come about.

Marvel comics in the past was notorious for some silly C&D Letters. Valiant Comics once recevied such a letter from Marvel's legal dept. saying that their book titled "X-O Manowar" (where the "X-O" is a reference to an "Exo-skeleton" armor worn by the protagonist) violated their "X-Men" trademark.

Valiant ignored the C&D and no legal action ever occured.

This leads me to believe that the High School did NOT receive a court order to stop using their "W" logo, but a Cease & Desist letter from UW's lawyers (which is not a court order, but rather a request that informs the recipient of actions the sender may take if the request is not fulfilled)

A letter from a lawyer often seems so intimidating and threatening that these stories of "bullying" emerge unjustly.

Anonymous said...

Grow Up

It is time for us all to realize that logo's are money and business. Our colleges are businesses. I hated the Motion W, and still prefer the old W. I don't think we should get bent out of shape over asking our high schools to be original. Today our kids learn to copy and imitate others instead of being original.

I say it is time for the schools to take the time to educate and teach. If they copy others homework they get punished, so lead by example. Be creative like the UW was when it created a new W. I live in Waynesboro now and grew up in Madison. I am a die hard Badger fan and so are my three young kids. My sister-in-law got one of the letters from the UW and I read it. It is very courteous and not out of line at all. It did lead to a 10 minute discussion with my oldest son (7 years old) about why they had to change their helmets at the high school.

Time for us all to stop pointing fingers, blaming others, or bashing the original guy for wanting to stay original and different. How will these kids ever be success, creative, and free thinkers if we continue to show them the quick, easy, illegal way out of things.


A Badger living in Waynesboro!