The alleged misuse of a university logo has led to the disqualification of one of the tickets running for student body president.
The campaign ticket of Mike Mincberg and Christi Clements was notified of its disqualification on Feb. 20. The disqualification came after Andrew Read, director of the Election Rules Commission, spotted signs at Cooper Hall and in MLK Plaza that bore a logo resembling the Student Government emblem.
The logo of the Mincberg-Clements ticket plays off of USF’s new “Iron Bull” athletic logo, which was also recently adopted by Student Government. The alteration is an infringement of trademark law, Read said, citing Florida Statute 495.131.
But Mincberg says the charges are unfair. His usage of bullhorns affixed to the letters M and C, the first initials of their names, was innocent, he said.
“(Clements and I) feel that (the ERC) have may have unknowingly abused their power by expecting an undergraduate student to know trademark law,” Mincberg said. “People go to law school specifically to learn about laws like that.”
In the Florida Statutes, infringement refers to the unauthorized use of a registered trademark or any reproduction, counterfeit, copy or colorable imitation of the mark “intended to be used upon or in conjunction with the sale, offering for sale, or distribution or advertising in this state of goods or services.”
Read sent an e-mail to Mincberg and Clements on Feb. 17 to notify them of the violation, which merits disqualification under Section 10.2.1 of the ERC’s rules of procedure, Read said. The section states that 10-point violations, which are automatic grounds for disqualification, include “any violation of local, state, or federal laws.”
According to Mincberg, they initially took down the signs but put them back up after coming to the personal conclusion that they had not violated the law. A formal injunction from the university was granted to the candidates Monday, which allowed them to keep the signs up.
“In the United States of America you are innocent until proven guilty, especially when it’s something as controversial as a trademark,” Mincberg said.
The candidates will defend the use of their “MC” logo at an appeal hearing in the basement of the Phyllis P. Marshall Center today at 5:30 p.m.
One of the arguments that may be presented is whether the infringement actually pertains to this case, Mincberg said.
Additional arguments will be offered, although Mincberg declined to comment on specifics. Mincberg did, however, express his concern on what would happen if he and Clements were to be allowed to remain in the election but had to take the signs down.
“We are average students,” said Mincberg. “We worked to raise the money to run a campaign. If we take those signs down, there’s no more signs for us.”
Mincberg and Clements also received a two-point violation for unauthorized use of the Marshall Center logo on their campaign Web site, but the violations aren’t even the most disturbing aspect of the situation, Mincberg added.
“We’ve been spending so much time dealing with this we haven’t been able to talk about our campaign,” Mincberg said.
Other tickets that are running for SG’s highest office are Esque Dollar and Tameka Bradley; Bijal Chhadva and Andrew Aubrey; and the Brandon Faza and J.P. Murphy ticket.
The election will take place April 7 -8 and students will be able to vote online at www.usf.edu/vote.
There are still three weeks to sign up for students who are interested in running, although there are certain stipulations students need to meet in order to qualify as a candidate.