Some Question if University of Iowa Violating Product Policy

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By Aaron Hepker

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Official Hawkeye logos adorn T-shirts, jerseys and footballs. But the University of Iowa's trademarked symbol also is featured on steins and shot glasses, and that has some wondering if the school is violating its own licensing policy.

Student Matt Pfaltzgraf, a leader of a group opposing a city ordinance limiting when minors can enter bars, said the university has a policy against selling things that promote alcohol use.

"Yet I was able to buy about eight shot glasses (and) a couple of pitchers," said Pfaltzgraf, of the group YESS, which stands for Yes to Entertaining Students Safely. "They're obviously not following their own policy."

Pfaltzgraf also accused the university of a "double standard" for making money off the products while trying to combat binge drinking.

University officials contend that those items are not intended to promote alcohol consumption but as collectibles. And they said the school can't control how anyone uses a UI-licensed product — regardless of its intended purpose.

Selling products such as beer glasses and pitchers does not undermine the university's efforts to curb dangerous drinking, said interim Vice President Tom Rocklin. Rocklin has championed changing the city and campus' drinking culture both in his position at the university and as a private citizen serving on the 21 Makes Sense committee.

"I think that licensing products that relate to alcohol consumption would be contrary to our message if our message was prohibition, which it isn't," Rocklin said. "It's not like we have licensed beer bongs, for instance."

Any company that wants to sell licensed Hawkeye products must first obtain approval from the UI Trademark Licensing Office, run by Trademark Licensing Director Dale Arens. The university's policy forbids messages that promote or refer to gambling, tobacco, drug or alcohol use, among other things.

Arens said he doesn't think the sale of beer glasses and related items violates that policy.

"If a glassware company comes to us, we don't let them promote (the product) as a beer stein or shot glass," Arens said. "We view those as collectibles. People collect those things and they line them up on their shelves. You'd be hard pressed to find someone drinking beer out of a collector's stein."

Glassware is allowed because it could be used for drinking nonalcoholic beverages, Arens said. Products that are clearly used for alcohol consumption, such as flasks or products used to sneak alcohol into stadiums, are not permitted, Arens said.

Arens said it would be difficult to find people using these products in a drinking environment, such as the downtown Iowa City bar scene or at tailgates outside of Kinnick Stadium. And area Hawkeye memorabilia vendors agree.

"A lot of those items aren't used for drinking," said Ron Christensen, owner of Game Day Iowa, which features 36,000 licensed Iowa products. "Students that are drinking aren't going to use their money to buy them."

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