On Monday evening, the Johnson City Schools Board of Education unanimously approved a $21,750 check to artificial field surface company AstroTurf to remove the contested Hilltoppers logo from the center of the stadium and replace it with the current, legitimately contracted image.
School Athletics Director Keith Turner said the apparel and other items bearing the trademarked image of the Duke, mascot for Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University, were sold or otherwise disposed of shortly after the school received a cease-and-desist letter from the Pennsylvania college, so the replaced field logo would close the chapter on a hard-learned lesson in trademark protection.
The Johnson City high school adopted the grimacing, hat-wearing man in profile in 2006, the same year Duquesne obtained a trademark for a nearly identical logo.
Turner said he picked the logo out of a magazine and proposed it to school administrators to replace its predecessor, unaware that it was protected.
In July 2011, Science Hill received a letter from the college threatening legal action if the school did not cease producing promotional materials with the logo, immediately prohibit coaches and faculty from wearing clothing with the image and remove the trademarked man from the 50-year-line of the football field and the competition wrestling mat.
Johnson City Schools attorney Lee Patterson eventually struck a settlement with the university allowing the logo to stay on the newly built stadium’s field for up to five years at a cost of $1,000 per year.
Last year, the district hired a design firm to produce the current logo, a forward-facing, yet still menacing hatter, and followed the legal process to trademark it.
That image will replace the Duke this summer, once the city approves the expense and the $4,300 also included in Turner’s request for field maintenance.
The money will come from a fund where retained rebate checks from beverage maker Coca-Cola have been saved for the last four years.
“This takes care of that problem a year in advance,” Turner said after Monday’s meeting. “This will conclude it and get it done, so we don’t have to worry about it anymore.”
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