The athletic team logos of colleges and universities are trademarks and as such cannot be legally copied without express written permission in a license. A business or individual wanting to use university sports logos on merchandise must first obtain official permission from the proper authorities. The governing authority for a college or university licensing program varies among institutions.
Internal Programs or Off-campus Representatives
To identify licensing agencies, first contact universities of interest. Some schools have internal programs for trademark licensing. For example, the Iowa Hawkeye athletics department refers interested applicants to the University of Iowa Licensing Program. Other institutes of higher learning will refer the interested party off-site to a representative agency such as the Collegiate Licensing Company, which manages marketing and licensing of university trademarks for approximately 200 institutions.
Getting to Know the CLC
The CLC handles the application process for the schools represented and makes recommendations based on the information obtained. However, each college or university decides whether to approve the licensing proposal. The universities of Alabama, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Duke, Florida and Florida State, Georgia, Louisville, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, Texas Tech and Wisconsin are among the schools the CLC represents.
To obtain a trademark license for a university represented by the CLC, the applicant must choose among four license types. Local entrepreneurs who wish to sell products only within the home state of the university or college can apply for a Local License through the CLC. First-time applicants are limited to three schools within the same state. After initial approval, applicants can obtain licenses for up to five universities and colleges within the state.
Campus Restricted, Special and Standard Licenses
An Internal Campus Supplier License is for businesses who will sell products back to departments within the particular university. This does not include alumni or student groups and according to the CLC, this type of license mandates narrow distribution limits. The CLC offers a Special License for events such as bowl games and permits to use trademarks of the NCAA or a specific conference, either with or without university logos. The Standard CLC licenses are for businesses that show extensive marketing plans and intend to distribute products across a wide area. This is the most expensive and difficult university sports logo license to obtain, according to the CLC. However, the company states that entrepreneurs who submit detailed applications with well-thought out marketing plans are the most likely to succeed in acquiring a license for university sports logos.
Vicki A Benge began writing professionally in 1984 as a newspaper reporter. A small-business owner since 1999, Benge has worked as a licensed insurance agent and has more than 20 years experience in income tax preparation for businesses and individuals. Her business and finance articles can be found on the websites of "The Arizona Republic," "Houston Chronicle," The Motley Fool, "San Francisco Chronicle," and Zacks, among others.