Iowa Claims Schools' Logos Infringe On Trademark

Murrieta High School's Nighthawk (left) and Iowa's tigerhawk.

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By Richard Pratt

MURRIETA, Calif. - The University of Iowa recently sent letters to about a half dozen high schools around the country, asking them to stop using the UI’s trademarked Tiger Hawk logo.

It’s an issue the UI deals with occasionally, sending perhaps a dozen letters to high schools each year, Trademark Licensing Director Dale Arens said.

UI officials don’t actively seek out the trademark infringement by high schools using the logo, but they do keep track of the schools they hear about, typically from alumni living around the country or officials at other colleges, Arens said. Once a few infringements pile up, Arens sends out the letters.

“It’s fairly routine. I don’t have a great urgency when it comes to these, because I know it’s not a malicious thing,” he said. “But it’s something we need to do. From an ownership perspective, we can’t allow schools all over the country to be using our federally-registered trademark.”

When Arens informs the schools they must stop using the trademarked logo, he often offers up solutions or suggests design firms they can contact that specialize in helping high schools in that situation.

In the case of one of the schools in the most recent round of letters – Murrieta Valley High School in Murrieta, Calif. — the school was using a red version of the UI Tiger Hawk. The school mascot is the Nighthawk.

Officials with that school district did not return a phone message seeking comment, but they did tell a California newspaper they had been using the logo for about 20 years, choosing it when the school site first opened.

In the case of Murrieta Valley, Arens said he spoke to that superintendent this week and had a cordial conversation. He tries to offer suggestions that have the least financial impact for the schools — letting them keep the logo painted on a gym floor, for example, until the next time the school had planned on refinishing it.

“That’s a satisfactory solution to us,” he said.

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