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Do you own the rights to your school or league logo?

November 2, 2020

Marianne

Your logo is your logo, right? Well, maybe not.

Every school and sports team wants a great logo that looks hip and tells the world your students or athletes are winners. You want a mascot that can personify your organization at events and promotional activities and pep rallies. Your mascot might be cute and friendly, or it might have a “competitors beware” vibe, but you certainly don’t want to share it.

As a school administrator or athletic director, it’s your responsibility to protect your organization so you have to deal with the serious side of branding – legalities associated with the visual representations used by your organization. You need to know who owns your logo. For schools, it’s very possible that your district or the state Board of Education does, in fact, already own your logo.

 

Protect what’s yours

Your logo, your mascot, and your slogan are more than just visuals, they are intellectual property and you can protect them via copyright and/or trademark.

Why do that? You can:

  • Avoid confusion that might occur if some other school or league infringes on your logo or mascot
  • Retain full branding impact of your visuals
  • Control when and how your visuals are used

 

Trademarking is for when you want to use your visuals on merchandise. Well, duh. Of course you want to do that! Where would you be without uniforms and spirit wear? You can apply for a federal trademark, but for elementary and high schools and youth sports organizations, it is easier and cheaper (and usually just as effective) to register your trademark with your state. You can apply for copyrights and trademarks online.

Whether or not you want to formally copyright or trademark your visuals, meeting the requirements for doing that will ensure that your logo, mascot, slogan, etc. really are yours. Those requirements are:

  • Original artwork, not something pilfered from elsewhere or suspiciously similar to someone else’s logo
  • Proof the logo was designed specifically for your school or organization
  • Written permission from the creator (an employee, student, volunteer, etc.) for you to claim the copyright (and use the logo on goods and merchandise)

 

Be a good sport

It’s tempting to think that copying a well-known logo and making only slight modifications will enhance branding for your school or organization, but that’s wrong. Boosting someone else’s logo or mascot is as bad as having some other entity hijack yours, for two reasons:

  • It will cause confusion for everyone. This is the primary reason colleges and pro sports teams copyright and trademark their visuals and go after anyone who infringes on them in any way.
  • It’s not cool. Don’t you want your own truly unique identity? That’s what school/team pride is all about.

 

This is not one of those situations where it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission. Get it right from the start, and you’ll be doing your organization a legal favor. Plus, you’ll be teaching your athletes/students that doing the right thing is a good thing.

 

Questions?

If you're decorating apparel for a school, talk to your school (or school district) attorney, or contact an intellectual property specialist. Details differ depending on your school district or state Board of Education or according to how your YSO is legally organized.

If you are managing a youth sports league that is associated with multiple schools, you will need to get appropriate permissions from all the schools to use their artwork or, more likely, to approve artwork unique to your group. Yes, it might be a hassle, but serving kids is the bottom line, and you want to set a good example.

 

Be True to Yourself!

We understand that the thought of creating an entirely new logo from scratch can feel daunting, and we’re here to replace that fear with something fabulous – a brand new logo designed by our SquadLocker graphic design pros. With your input, of course.

You’ll get a logo that’s all yours and is perfect in every detail for reproducing on uniforms and spirit wear, whether the design is imprinted or embroidered. And we mention we’ll do this for you for free?

We’ll even go further. Most organizations have (or wish they had) more than one variation of their logo. After all, the chess club and the lacrosse team want to show school spirit, but they want to differentiate themselves, too. In sports leagues, the lacrosse team wants a look that says “league” but also separates them from the basketball team or the wrestlers.

Our design pros can also help you create those variations on your logo theme, so each sub-group has their own look but there’s no question whose school or YSO they represent. Very cool indeed.

Then take the necessary steps to ensure your fabulous visuals belong to you and no one else, by protecting them with copyright and/or trademarks.

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