Update 5:03 p.m.: We called the University of South Carolina's Director of Communications, Russ McKinney and he said that although the lawyers are still going through the 93-page ruling, it won't necessarily stop the school from using the logo on the baseball uniforms, and it perhaps won't even impede it from selling hats with the mark or collecting royalties.
What does it mean? Our state's school can't trademark the logo, and that, push come to shove, the California school has more "right" to it.
Not exactly the best position to be in, but it's still better than not being able to use it at all. And, the schools have been able to live-and-let-live on the "USC" designation in the past (more on that in the original post).
Also, as we type this up we noticed The State has a story saying much the same thing.
Original post: The University of Southern California has been ruled to have more legal right than the University of South Carolina to use the "SC" logo. (The decision does not affect the "USC" logo.)
The decision comes from the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
The hat above depicts South Carolina's baseball logo, which the appeal board decided was legally identical to California's (right). The board says the marks cause confusion and both schools can't have it.
Here's the 93-page ruling for your reading pleasure.Why does California get it? They had the (official) trademark first and South Carolina was trying to get it revoked, to which the board said:
Any rights in “SC” Carolina might have had prior to 1982 were abandoned due to Carolina’s nonuse of “SC” between 1982 and 1991. [Page 91]
If you're thinking the fact that the State of South Carolina uses "SC" everywhere and that should serve as precedent, so did the University of South Carolina, but the court was unswayed:
The parties have stipulated that “SC” is the official state abbreviation assigned by the United States Postal Service to the state of South Carolina; that the state of South Carolina is referred to on maps by the abbreviation “SC”; that various South Carolina state agencies use “SC” as part of their agency acronyms; that the state’s official website uses the letters “SC” as part of its Internet address ...
We find that all of these uses of “SC” by the state would be perceived by relevant purchasers not as trademarks or service marks, but as purely informational references to the state itself. [Page 90]
The ruling came August 1, and was the result of the November 15 hearing.
Oh, and incase you were wondering why this doesn't affect the "USC" logo, and why both schools use it, the two schools have an agreement dating back to August of 1981, saying in part:
1. SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA shall not object and hereby consents to the use by SOUTH CAROLINA or its licensees, distributors or other lawful designees of the designation USC on and in connection with educational and related services as well as consumer products of varying description. ...
2. SOUTH CAROLINA shall not object and hereby consents to the use by SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA or its licensees, distributors or other lawful designees of the designation USC on and in connection with educational and related services as well as consumer products of varying description. ... [Page 40]
A Los Angeles Times blogger details some of the (many) other conflicting branding problems the two schools share.
I may be a Clemson graduate, but you South Carolina fans have my sympathy today. But it'll be long gone by the start of football.