A universityÃs logo is its identity Ã³ a visual representation that can instantly be associated with the institution.
Protected by trademark laws and defined with precision in a 17-page manual, the official mark of USF is guarded tightly against any infringement by outside vendors wishing to make a profit off it.
Well, in theory anyway. In practice, itÃs a big mess.
Even USF officials seem unclear on what the actual policy is.
Ã¬I donÃt allow anyone to use it,Ã® said Marilyn Stephens, director for publications in the Office of Public Affairs. Later, when asked about how McDonaldÃs restaurant or The Greenery gained approval for use of the logo, Stephens claimed that, in certain circumstances businesses can, in fact, use the logo.
Ã¬There are people who have bought the right to use the logo,Ã® Stephens said. According to her, auxiliary services handles selling the rights to the logo.
Not so, says Jeff Mack, director for auxiliary services. While Mack said that auxiliary services does handle the licensing when it comes to using the USF logo on retail items such as T-shirts and hats, his office does not deal with the use of the logo in other promotional materials.
Ã¬I assume they have dealt with public affairs,Ã® Mack said of McDonaldÃs and The Greenery.
The issue of licensing has gained even more importance as USF community relations seeks to push the establishment of Bulls Country, a project that includes encouraging local businesses to display their support of the university. Bob Fiallo, who is heading the effort, said his office values the importance of the USF trademark.
Ã¬We understand licensing issues,Ã® he said. Ã¬We value the mark.Ã®
But in the case of Austin DuffyÃs Irish Pub and Restaurant, an official USF sponsor that used the logo in promotional flyers, not only was Fiallo unaware of the infraction, but Mack and Stephens did not know of the incident either.
Ã¬I actually got the authority from ESPN Regional,Ã® said Andrew Gillespie, manager for the restaurant.
According to the Athletic DepartmentÃs Web site, ESPN Regional is a company that works with the university to Ã¬enhance the value of its numerous sports marketing opportunities.Ã®
Chris Lahey, general manager for ESPN Regional said he could not recall if anyone at USF actually saw the Austin Duffy flyer before he gave the final approval. Lahey said that approval normally comes from Tom Veit, associate director of athletics.
Ã¬I donÃt know if he has seen it or not,Ã® Lahey said.
Veit could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
Lahey added that he decided to approve Austin DuffyÃs flyer to help them out.
Ã¬We saw it as a great opportunity to get their name out there,Ã® he said.
As for how USF could benefit, Lahey said, Ã¬I think the university is out there looking for corporate sponsors.Ã®
Ã¬People donÃt realize you just canÃt arbitrarily use someone elseÃs logo,Ã® she said. Ã¬They can say ÃUSFÃ as long as they donÃt use the logo.Ã®
Keith Hauger is the assistant general counsel for USF and handles the legal pursuit of any trademark infringement for the university. According to Hauger, the use of the logo is not something that should be taken lightly.
Ã¬Those logos mean something,Ã® he said. Ã¬ThatÃs an association with the university. I donÃt think the university wants to be associated with a club thatÃs selling alcohol.Ã®
Even Gillespie was aware of the universityÃs sensitivity to the alcohol issue.
Ã¬The universities are usually quite stickling when it comes to businesses that involve drinking,Ã® he said.
But, he added, Austin DuffyÃs pays close attention to whom it sells alcohol, checking IDs and cutting drinkers off when theyÃve had too much. And because Austin DuffyÃs is an official sponsor, Gillespie said it should have the right to use the logo.
Ã¬IÃm spending the money, and IÃd like to see some kind of return on that,Ã® he said. Ã¬If other people start putting the clamps down, well then, yes, I might get a little annoyed with that.Ã®
Dennis Garofalo, general manager for The Greenery, echoed GillespieÃs concerns. The Greenery has used the USF mark on its menus for years, and Garofalo sees no reason to change that.
Ã¬From a personal standpoint, I donÃt see the problem with it,Ã® Garofalo said. Ã¬I know we laid down $500 to support the Athletic Department, so I think that right there would allow me to use the logo.Ã®
Garofalo also noted a contradiction in USFÃs desire to receive support from the local business community while at the same time restricting the use of the logo. When asked how he would react if the university told him to remove the logo from the menus, Garofalo was blunt.
Ã¬That would piss me off,Ã® he said. Ã¬I might start hanging Gators colors up.Ã®
Fiallo claimed there was no contradiction.
Ã¬WeÃre telling folks to use green and gold, ÃGo USF,Ã ÃWe support USFÃ and ÃBulls Country,Ã thatÃs all,Ã® he said.
But Fiallo also made it clear that policy enforcement on the issue of licensing is not something with which he deals.
Ã¬IÃm sure that there are people who are the watchdog of this,Ã® he said. Ã¬I canÃt really intelligently comment on the university possibly going to vendors.Ã®
The issue of having to enforce the trademark rights is a relatively new one, according to Stephens. But it is not going to get any easier to sort out.
Ã¬As the university becomes more prominent, more people will want to associate themselves with it,Ã® Stephens said. Ã¬We probably need to enforce it more strenuously now.Ã®
One possible model for USF is the University of Florida, which has seen a high demand for its logo for years. UF also has the added difficulty of having to manage three separate marks, all through different offices. The word mark, which includes the university seal, is managed through public relations while the Gator logo is overseen by the Athletic Association. A third logo, which commemorates the 150th anniversary of the school is managed by the 150th Committee, according to K.A. Crooks, assistant vice president for public relations for UF.
While there is little demand for Gainesville businesses to use either the 150th or the word mark, the Gator logo is constantly being reproduced. Denise Gay is the license coordinator for the logo, and she says the Athletic Association keeps a tight rein on its uses.
Ã¬Our rule of thumb is that we donÃt allow any businesses to use our marks and logos unless they have an official relationship with the university,Ã® Gay said.
She defined Ã¬official relationshipÃ® as any major sponsorship. She added that UF is in a different situation from USF, because UF is not in a position in which it is trying to spread the word about the school.
Ã¬USF, theyÃre trying to maybe push that mark,Ã® Gay said. Ã¬We donÃt need to get our name out there and get it known.Ã®
Whereas USF might want to encourage businesses to purchase licensing rights for the trademark, UF has sought to diminish the list of those who are allowed to use theirs. Gay noted that, for a period, UF had over 900 contracts with businesses for the use of its mark, causing an Ã¬over-saturationÃ® that drove down the value of the logo. Gay added that this is something USF should be wary of when licensing its own logo.
Ã¬ThereÃs value in that mark,Ã® she said. Ã¬ItÃs important to protect it up front.Ã®
Gay also offered one possible solution to the issue of businesses that currently use the logo with or without permission. She said UF faced a similar situation in the past.
Ã¬Some (businesses) were using the logo before our current policy took effect, and they were sort of grandfathered in,Ã® Gay said.
As for licensing in Bulls Country, Fiallo said he will continue to stress that outside businesses not use USFÃs logo in their support of USF.
Ã¬In my area, weÃre being careful,Ã® he said. This includes handing out tip sheets to business managers outlining what they can and cannot do.
Fiallo remained upbeat that the policy would be accepted.
Ã¬Everybody wants to be involved,Ã® he said. Ã¬And everybody wants to play by the rules.Ã®
Contact Dustin Dwyer at email@example.com