Is it legal for a sports gear company to sell products on-line with a school’s name and mascot, without permission?

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Is it legal for a sports gear company to sell products on-line with a school’s name and mascot, without permission?

I found an on-line sports products site that is selling gear with my high school’s name and mascot on it, as well as hundreds of other schools. To my knowledge, they don’t have the authorization of the school or alumni to do so. Is it legal for them or anyone to sell high school products, like jerseys, mugs, sweats, etc., of a high school without the permission of the school or alumni organization, and without compensation, like a percentage of the sales to help the school’s athletic and band programs?

Asked on February 1, 2011 under Business Law, West Virginia

Answers:

MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The first thing is there are thousands of schools out there and many have the same name, perhaps even the same mascot.  If you are absolutely certain it is your school, you need to understand it would up to the district or school board to truly decide if this business has a license or permission to use the school colors, logo and mascot to associate it with your school.  Further, some things might be subject to copyright while others might be subject to trademark or simply nothing at all.  It all depends on the name, color sequences, type of mascot, whether it is a unique design, and other factors. A contractual arrangement with the district would show whether the school or district was getting funding or a percentage of the profits from this company's business.  You can contact the district and find out and then if you still have a concern, contact the local prosecutor's office.  But it would truly be up to the school district to bring action.


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