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Streetsboro's 3-year legal tussle with University of Toledo over Rocket sports logo resolved

by mike lesko | Reporter Published: March 5, 2014 12:00 AM
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Streetsboro -- The city's school leaders believe a three-year legal tug-of-war with the University of Toledo involving the sports logos of both facilities is finally over.

The problem? Both institutions use a "Rocket" as a logo, and Toledo thinks Streetsboro School District's is too similar to theirs.

The solution? After a slightly redesigned Streetsboro logo a couple of years ago apparently didn't satisfy the university, the city schools agreed last month not to copyright the logo they use.

Superintendent Michael Daulbaugh said at the Feb. 13 Streetsboro Board of Education meeting that the situation began in 2011 when University of Toledo officials said they were going to sue Streetsboro schools "because we were using the same 'Rocket' logo that [Toledo players] use on their helmets and football uniforms."

Officials from the University of Toledo could not be reached for comment.

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"The [Streetsboro] district went through a long legal process involving lawyers and school employees," Daulbaugh said. "We came to an agreement with the University of Toledo. We changed our Rocket logo. We have a new Rocket logo."

According to Athletic Administrator Randy Tevepaugh, after the school district was contacted by the University of Toledo in the fall of 2011, then-Superintendent Bob Hunt had the new logo designed.

"We essentially modified the existing logo by removing some of the highlights around the Rocket," Tevepaugh said.

Daulbaugh said, "From that point forward, we were to use the new Rocket logo, and [University of Toledo officials] approved it."

Daulbaugh said the next step in the process "was for us to trademark it because it was our logo."

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"As we started the trademarking process, and we submitted it to trademark it, the University of Toledo just recently came knocking on our door and said, 'Stop. If you use that logo, you will cause irreparable harm to the University of Toledo,'" Daulbaugh said.

"[They said] it looks too much like (Toledo's) logo -- even though they approved that logo and said it was OK," Daulbaugh said. "They said if we trademark it, they will sue us and take us back to court to prevent us from doing that."

Daulbaugh said that left Streetsboro schools with three options:

"Put the gloves on and go into a trademark war and see who wins," he said. "That would be a very costly option."

"Simply do nothing and see where it goes," he said.

"Work out an agreement with the University of Toledo, which is probably the best option," he said.

"When you trademark a logo, the law states you have to police that logo," Daulbaugh said. "So if we were to trademark that new logo, anytime Walgreens or any of our spirit store folks that [make] T-shirts and jackets use that logo, they would have had to get approval from us and sign contracts. That's pretty labor intensive.

"We've been advised [by attorneys] that the better solution is for us to say, 'Hey, University of Toledo, how about if we just keep using our new Rocket logo? And we won't trademark it. So the feeling is, the University of Toledo will agree to allow us to use the new logo --- however we want, wherever we want, whenever we want. We just don't trademark it.

"So I'm making a recommendation to the Board that we move in that direction," he said.

The School Board was not required to vote on the recommendation, and no School Board members objected to it.

Daulbaugh said it's probably the least expensive option.

"We've given direction to our legal folks that we're going to work more toward a solution with the University of Toledo and say, 'Hey, let's work this out. We just want to continue using our logo.' Hopefully, that will suffice and this will go away," Daulbaugh said.

School Board member Kevin Grimm said he believes the University of Toledo "has gone a little overboard" by continuing to send letters to Streetsboro schools.

"Regardless, they approved the new logo," Grimm said. "Then they turn around and say, 'Well, if you trademark it, we're going to sue you. I'm opposed to what they're doing, and I think it's pretty awful."

Daulbaugh said Streetsboro school attorneys "did advise us that a lot of universities around the nation are actually being forced to police their logos. I wasn't aware of this, but this is actually starting to happen. We were one of the first [to be involved in such an incident], but this is beginning to happen across the United States."

Tevepaugh said he believes 16 schools across the country received similar letters from the University of Toledo.

Email: mlesko@recordpub.com

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