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Should the UI strictly police logo misappropriation?

BY DI EDITORIAL STAFF | NOVEMBER 19, 2010 7:20 AM

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YES

It seems petty, but the Tigerhawk logo is important.

The University of Iowa has a vested interest in regulating the use of its logo. It is important for the university to be able to control its reputation, and officials' recent move — asking a California high school to phase out its logo — is justifiable.

Allowing City High to use the logo is one thing, but allowing the use of the logo to proliferate too widely would not be good for the university's reputation. The UI is a public university, but it is also a business. Trademarks exist to allow businesses to control their brands, and for this reason, the UI's actions are completely acceptable.

Ceding the rights to the Hawkeye brand to a high school could potentially harm the UI's reputation. High schools use their logos on a huge variety of products, and some of those designed by high-school students are inappropriate. The brand represents the school to people who have never been to Iowa City, and use of the Tigerhawk can have consequences.

The university does not want the Tigerhawk to be used on shirts with dirty slogans for the senior wrestling team, or shirts with racist or offensive slogans and designs. I know some of the shirts worn by student groups at my high school were not exactly in the upper echelon of humor and could have reflected poorly on the university.

Besides inappropriate messages, having numerous versions of the Tigerhawk could be confusing. If students from Murrieta Valley High were wearing shirts with the Tigerhawk logo at a sporting event, they could easily be mistaken for Hawkeye fans.

Today it's a high school, but what will it be tomorrow? A Little League team? An auto dealership? A strip club?

The Tigerhawk logo only represents the university as long as people recognize it that way. The UI has a right to control the use of its brand.

— by Will Mattessich

NO

It's not surprising the UI feels compelled to control the appropriation of its logo. It has every legal right to do so, and Tigerhawk-adorned apparel and memorabilia bring in millions of dollars.

But this fierce brand protection also exemplifies the corporatization of our public university system.

When the UI is cracking down on high schools thousands of miles away, you know something is wrong.

The university-as-corporation comments of Dale Arens, the director of the UI's Trademark Licensing Program, were especially telling in this respect.

"A good way of saying it is, if we wanted to open a hamburger joint, we wouldn't put two golden arches on the top of it," Arens told the DI, explaining the UI's efforts to shut down copycat logos.
Label me a hopeless atavist, but it's clear many universities have forgotten their founding principles.

Athletics, while an essential part of the college experience for many, shouldn't supplant the university's academic mission. And the university shouldn't be run — or perceived to be — a corporate behemoth. Too often, though, it is.

As corporate vernacular slowly seeps into our educational discourse ("value-added assessment" is perhaps the most cringe-inducing example), universities are increasingly being valued based on their "return on investment." That is, many students and policymakers are quantifying the worth of a university solely on its ability to fill the corporate workforce. The university-as-edifying-experience has been largely discarded, deemed to be only marginally important.

That's why small-scale logo misappropriation doesn't make me squeamish. The university has much bigger things to worry about than a peripheral high school with a similar logo.

— by Shawn Gude


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