Attorneys for Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University have notified Science Hill High School to cease and desist from using the university’s logo — the determined-looking man in the top hat — or face legal action for infringement of trademark rights.
“I can’t say much right now because we are talking with them and possibly trying to work out a franchise agreement,” said Lee Patterson, the Johnson City school system’s legal counsel and human resources director. “But we have three choices: stop using the logo, work something out with them or get sued.”
A comparison of the two logos reveals an identical figure of a man from the shoulder up, wearing a top hat, the collar raised around the neck and a grimacing expression on his face. The only differences are in color, with Duquesne’s logo primarily in blue and white, with a strip of red around the hat. Science Hill’s logo sports a maroon color around the hat, and the entire figure, including the raised collar, is gold in color.
Attorney Christine R. Ethridge with the Pittsburgh law firm K&L Gates, includes the university’s trademark registration number in the letter and says Science Hill has been using the “identical image of the profile of a man wearing a top hat in connection with athletics, promotional clothing items, the school bulletin, the school website and a fundraising campaign.”
She requests in the June 2 letter that the logo be removed from Kermit Tipton Stadium before the start of the school year on Aug. 4, and that no further clothing, labels, signs, brochures, schedules and the like bearing the logo be ordered and produced. The request also states that “beginning immediately” no coach, staff member, teacher or anyone representing the high school wear any article of clothing with the logo on it.
Ethridge further states the university also has viewed video clips showing the logo on Science Hill’s new football stadium and scoreboard and on shirts worn by coaching staff.
Ethridge was not immediately available, and calls were left with the university’s public affairs office but not returned.
SHHS officials are not disputing that the logo belongs to the university and already has removed it from its main website. The school also is in the process of making sure teachers, staff members, coaches and volunteers do not wear clothing bearing the logo.
Science Hill’s Supervisor of Instruction and Facilities Dave Chupa said Wednesday the university has agreed to let the high school continue to sell existing promotional items until stocks are depleted. The university also will let Science Hill keep all proceeds from sales of these items through June 15, 2012, on the condition evidence of the sales are made available on request.
Chupa said there is no dollar estimate on what eliminating the logo could cost the school.
“That logo is the centerpiece of our new stadium, and we’re looking into having the ability to keep it,” he said. “It’s kind of interesting. The high school has been using that design for years. I’ve talked with Keith Turner (SHHS athletic director) about it, and I’ve never gotten a full explanation of how the logo (high school logo) came about. This is kind of a sticky situation right now.”
Turner was unavailable for comment.
The logo was scheduled to become the new centerpiece of the high school’s new gymnasium, and it was going to be etched onto the floor of the school’s new cafeteria.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the logo could be found online on the school’s football, baseball and basketball home pages. The image also is featured on T-shirts for sale online at “Topper Nation” as well as the “Take it to the Topp” campaign site.
Duquesne University is a private, coeducational university located on a bluff above downtown Pittsburgh. Founded in 1878 as a Catholic college by the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, Duquesne is the largest Catholic university in Pennsylvania, and the only Spiritan institution of higher education in the world. Beginning in the 1840s, Spiritans dedicated themselves to working with newly freed slaves.