Both Sides Claim Victory in KU Trademark Case

By: 13 News
By: 13 News

TOPEKA - Both sides claimed victory Monday in the University of Kansas' lawsuit over a Lawrence store's t-shirts.

After two days of deliberations at Topeka's federal courthouse, a jury ruled Joecollege.com and its owner Larry Sink did infringe on KU's trademark. Jurors ruled in KU's favor on all six counts and awarded the school $127,000 in damages from unpaid royalties and profits.

KU Associate Athletics Director Jim Marchiony says the jury was clear in its ruling that the store engaged in unfair competition. He says the school was excited about the verdict.

But Sink's attorney, Jim Tilly, is focusing on the rest of the jury's ruling. The jury found that three-quarters of the shirts sold did not infringe on KU's trademark. Tilly said that part of the ruling was "gratifying" and that the store would stay in business. He said that had the jury found all the objectionable, it would have meant unlicensed shirts were outlawed. He says the jury's ruling shows that there's a niche for licensed shirts and also a niche for "fun" shirts that are not official.

Tilly says the jury's decison shows that, while the university is within its rights to trademark certain things, there are also areas beyond that which are in the public domain.

The jury awarded KU only about a quarter of the money the school sought, but KU says that wasn't the bottom line. Marchiony says the important part of the ruling is that the store willfully violated the trademark. He says the monetary award is secondary.

Tilly says he believes Joecollege.com has grounds to ask the judge to reduce the monetary award, but they're still deciding whether to appeal.

Statement from KU Athletics Director Lew Perkins on jury's verdict:
"We are pleased that the jury unanimously found in KU's favor on all six counts, including federal and state trademark infringement, unfair competition, and dilution of our trademarks. We agree with the jury that all three defendants willfully infringed on and diluted our marks. This is an important victory for the University of Kansas, its reputation and its students, who receive approximately $1 million annually in scholarships from trademark revenue.

"This verdict provides support and protection for our 490 licensees who operate within the rules as well as the hundreds of retailers around the country who sell our licensed product, and it helps to preserve an important source of revenue for scholarships for students who need assistance to attend college and earn a degree.

"We were also pleased that the judge stated her intent to enter an injunction prohibiting any further sale of the infringing shirts. We will continue to fight to protect our trademarks, because it is important to the university, our students, and the hundreds of licensees and retail partners who respect our trademarks."


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