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SHHS logo agreement nearly finalized

December 5th, 2011 6:02 am by Gary B. Gray

SHHS logo agreement nearly finalized

A trademark agreement between Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University and Johnson City Schools appears ready to be put to bed.

It’s been more than six months since Duquesne first sent the school system a letter requesting Science Hill High School cease and desist from using its trademarked logo of a grimacing top-hatted man on any athletics, promotional clothing items, school bulletin, website and fundraising materials or face a lawsuit.

On Oct. 3, the Board of Education unanimously approved a proposed trademark license agreement regarding the high school’s continued, yet temporary, use of the university’s logo. The total cost, notwithstanding any other requests by the university, is about $22,500.

Basically, the two entities have not been at odds. The agreement has been worked out at a leisurely pace with Johnson City Schools cooperating with the university’s requests and Duquesne representatives allowing time for that cooperation and correspondence and easing way back on any threat to sue.

Attorney Christine R. Ethridge with Pittsburgh’s K&L Gates is representing Duquesne in the matter. She said Thursday that a few minor changes regarding payment time frames had been changed and she was waiting for the school system to reply.

“It is in its final form, and I’m just waiting to receive the signed agreement back from the school system,” Ethridge said.

Lee Patterson, the school system’s human resources director and legal counsel, said Friday that the changes were minor and the matter should be put to rest in a relatively short time.

“I’ll be signing it today and sending it off,” she said.

Under the proposed agreement, the school system will pay the university a licensing fee of $5,000 in annual installments of $1,000 beginning Oct. 15.

The agreement allows for continued use of the midfield logo at Kermit Tipton Stadium and its competition wrestling mat for a term of five years. SHHS Athletic Director Keith Turner has received a $17,500 quote on the cost of removing the logo from the football field and replacing the turf. This cost, and the annual payment, would be derived from revenue generated by an agreement between Johnson City Schools and Coca Cola Co., which supplies soft drinks.

The school system would be allowed to continue to sell certain promotional items until all stocks are depleted, but Duquesne would receive all proceeds from promotional items sold after June 15, 2012.

Meanwhile, the Board of Education will consider an amended policy today regarding the use of copyrighted materials, trademarks, mascots and logos that more clearly delineates responsibilities and places tighter controls on their use in hopes the miscue won’t happen again.

The addition concerns the adoption of logos and mascots and reads as follows: “Prior to use in a school, a new logo or mascot must have the approval of the building principal and the Superintendent of Schools. The principal shall take measures to ensure that a proposed logo or mascot is not registered or in use by other entities and that the use of the logo or mascot will not cause confusion with other schools or entities.”

Existing policy requires all employees to adhere to provisions in the federal code regarding the use of copyrighted material. The superintendent is responsible for establishing regulations concerning distribution of copyrighted materials for instructional purposes, and principals are responsible for enforcing the policy at the school level.

Though Superintendent of Schools Richard Bales will have the final say, the added wording places principals as the first line of defense when it comes to researching whether a particular logo or mascot is trademarked.

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