January 21, 2010
If a decision made this week by a federal appeals court stands, there's a good chance the University of South Carolina will be forced to stop using its interlocking "S.C." logo on its baseball cap.
In 2009, the U.S. Patent and Trademark review board ruled that the University of Southern California alone had the right to the "S.C." trademark (above left). And on Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld the decision in favor of the Trojans.
The ruling will not stop South Carolina's baseball from using the logo (above center). But since the school does not have the logo trademarked, it may not receive royalties from sales of the product and could be subject to further legal action.
In light of this opinion [by the court], South Carolina is going to have to take a careful look at its activities," said Scott Edelman, the lawyer representing Southern California.
Edelman said the ruling protects Southern California's "primary athletic mark" used on team clothing and merchandise that's sold for significant profit. He also argued that someone might mistake South Carolina merchandise for Trojans merchandise in stores since the two schools share an "S.C." logo, a point the Patent and Trademark review board disagreed with in its original ruling. Southern California's official colors are cardinal and gold, while South Carolina's official school colors are garnet and black.
"I think [South Carolina] wanted to move away from the gamecock logo," Edelman said. "That is something that is totally understandable. The gamecock is a goofy little chicken."
South Carolina hasn't decided if it will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but this story could also could ensnare another school: Santa Clara, a university located in Northern California, also uses an interlocking "S.C." logo on its baseball hats (above right). Will Southern California's lawyers now take their claims against the interlocking "S.C." to Santa Clara?