When people think about protecting a trademark, they usually think about a cease and desist letter followed by a lawsuit but there’s another way to protect a trademark. Here’s a great example of that strategy in action.
In 1960, the Green Bay Packers® starting using a football-shaped letter G as a logo.
In 1964, the University of Georgia began using a football-shaped letter G as a logo. Before adopting its new logo, the University ask the Packers for permission. The Packers said yes.
Why would the Packers give their permission? I don’t know but I can speculate. The Packers had two choices:
- Refuse permission and:
- Look like a bully; and, potentially
- Spend a bunch of money to defend its rights while possibly not having strong enough rights to be defensible. After all, their logo is just a slightly squashed letter G and, in 1964, the G logo wasn’t even a registered trademark. Any legal action would be based on the Packers’ common law trademark rights.
- Give permission and:
- Look like the good guys; and,
- Get some contractual rights for how Georgia uses the logo (colors, exact specs of the design, etc.); and
- Set a precedent of getting people to ask the Packers for permission.[i]
Here’s the lesson: If you aren’t sure whether you can win in a legal battle and the other trademark user isn’t likely to tarnish your brand, it may make sense to give them permission rather than being oppositional.
Shout out to Julie W, a loyal reader of the Bee Blog and a frequent contributor of post ideas.
[i] Grambling State University also started using a football-shaped G as its logo in 1974. Grambling State also reached out to the Packers and was given permission.