Last fall, Prep Rally wrote about the efforts of Florida State -- not to mention other high-profile collegiate programs -- to limit unauthorized high school use of its trademarked logos. After FSU officials received a raft of complaints about what many members of the public felt was overly aggressive trademark tactics, the school's lawyers quietly began negotiating what it felt were a series of forgiving legal arrangements with schools that continue to use the school's athletic nickname -- the Seminoles -- or its classic spear or Seminole head designs.
While it appeared that those cases had been wrapped up, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, another new settlement was finally reached on Monday. And while this prospective agreement with the Rockdale (Ga.) County Board of Education will continue to allow Salem (Ga.) High and Memorial (Ga.) Middle School to use the Seminoles nickname, Florida State is pushing forward with the forced complete elimination of all spear or Seminole head logos from those schools' football helmets, gyms, fields and other paraphernalia.
Those terms might seem agreeable, until you consider the fact that Salem and Memorial will have to pay to remove and replace all those logos themselves. The cost for such measures will easily top $200,000, while an extended legal fight would cost the Rockdale Board of Education upwards of $250,000.
It's not that Florida State doesn't have a case. The helmet you see above comes from the Salem Seminoles' football website, but it is clearly completely identical to Florida State's helmets, with the exception of the spear-based individual achievement stickers Florida State continues to use on its helmets. The issue is that neither the sum needed to replace the logos or fight the Florida State verdict are readily available for a school district facing a massive $10 million budget deficit, with further improvements in facilities desperately needed already.
"I thought it was a joke," Rockdale school board member Darlene Hotchkiss told the Journal-Constitution. "Why are they going after the little guys?
"[The cost is] a moving target. We're already looking at a $10 million deficit. Now we're going to have to replace gym floors at both schools, order new business cards, new uniforms and band apparel ..."
For it's part, the licensing agent acting on behalf of Florida State claimed that the school was in no hurry to enforce compliance with the removal of all logos, with the exception of the spear and Seminole head logos which adorn the Salem High and Memorial Middle football helmets. According to the agreement, those must be removed by Aug. 1.
"We're not trying to put them in a financial bind," the licensing director told the paper. "To get this all acknowledged is the main thing. If it takes five years, it takes five years."
Whether Florida State is intending to put schools in a financial bind or not, that's precisely what the Seminoles are doing. In the current economic climate, school districts don't even have enough money to continue their athletic programs, let alone replace all the logos that are associated with them.
Perhaps most troubling, the latest developments make it clear that Florida State will continue pushing forward with its national licensing drive, regardless of any criticism that will come its way, and regardless of the impact it will have on already financially strapped school districts.