On July 25, 2006, Duquesne University Director of Athletics Greg Amodio unveiled a more aggressive-looking logo for its 20-sport intercollegiate athletics program.
It was the same year Science Hill High School Athletic Director Keith Turner says he came across the logo in a magazine while looking for a similar, rugged-appearing upgrade for the high school’s athletic program. Turner and SHHS Assistant Principal Jeff Aldridge handled the upgrade from its “man about town” look that had been in place since about 2003 to the “mad hatter” look of the current logo, said Dave Chupa, the Johnson City School System’s instruction and facilities supervisor.
An attorney for the university notified Science Hill in a June 2 letter instructing it to cease and desist from using the university’s logo or face legal action for infringement of trademark rights. This fact was not made public until Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.
Lee Patterson, the school system’s legal counsel and human resources director, acknowledged the seriousness of the letter on Wednesday, saying the school system had three choices: “stop using the logo, work something out with them or get sued.”
“At this point, because of potential litigation, it’s kind of hit the point where we can’t talk any further,” Patterson said one day later. The call came in response to an attempt to reach Director of Schools Richard Bales, for whom Patterson said she was calling.
Less than an hour after Patterson said she could not volunteer further information, Chupa returned a previously placed call and informed the Johnson City Press he had been texting with Turner. Chupa had said he’d previously talked with Turner about the logo, but had never received “a full explanation.”
Turner has not been available for comment.
“I was principal there in 2003, and we put it to the student body about coming up with a new logo,” Chupa said. “A ‘Topper Head’ was created, and we used that for a few years. According to Mr. Turner and Mr. Aldridge, they talked to students about something a little more fierce looking. Now, I honestly don’t know how this evolved.”
At that point, Chupa said he would provide more information should Turner return a text message — and he did.
“The issue is the same with Keith now as it was with when I was principal,” he said. “People would ask, ‘what’s a Hilltopper?’ Keith said when the school won back-to-back basketball championships, he noticed a logo that was similar to a figure he’d seen on the back of a student’s shirt. Keith began looking around and he saw the logo in a magazine and liked it. In 2006 we started using it. It started popping up all over. Mr. Turner feels it was about this time we started using the logo and possibly before Duquesne trademarked their logo.”
When the university unveiled its revised logo in 2006, the primary mark remained a determined top-hatted Duke, which it already was using. The 2006 version, which remains in use, includes the figure of the man with a flowing cape below on which is written “Duquesne Dukes.” That replaced the script “Duquesne” used by the department since the fall of 1998.
The man, complete with cape and words, is the university’s primary logo. But it also uses the man’s figure, from top hat to collar with a grimacing look, as a secondary logo, the letter “D” as well as two other designs.
The image of the man, without the cape or words, is registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and was first used commercially on Aug. 30, 2006, according to an examining attorney with the office.
Amodio said that year that the process to create the image began in December 2005, and the logo went through a number of focus groups which included current students, student-athletes, alumni, staff and friends of the department before being created by Rickabaugh Graphics of Columbus, Ohio.
The university’s logos and other images can be found at GoDuquesne.com.
The high school’s version was found one block from the Press hanging in the window of ZZ Topps, a company located on East Market Street that specializes in custom embroidery and screen printing. A coach’s shirt, baseball cap and tote bag were prominently displayed.
“In our case, we only sell to private or public groups that come in and ask for something specific,” said Anita Shell, the company’s co-owner. “For example, folks from Science Hill came in and asked us to make up some items for use by the Junior Toppers. What’s left is just for display.”
Attorney Christine R. Ethridge with the Pittsburgh law firm K&L Gates includes the university’s trademark registration number in the terse 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.”
The university asks that the logo be removed from Kermit Tipton Stadium’s 50-yard-line 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.
SHHS officials are not disputing that the logo belongs to the university and already have removed it from the school’s 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.
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 that evidence of the sales are made available on request.
Chupa said there is no current dollar estimate on what eliminating the logo could cost the school.