Notre Dame Squashes Small Town’s High school Spirit over Trademark

By Joseph Mandour on November 2, 2011

Los Angeles Trademark LawLos Angeles – After a devastating tornado in 2008 destroyed a high school in Chapman, Kansas, students and officials alike rallied behind school chants of the “fighting Irish!” depicted by their fighting leprechaun mascot and worked hard to rebuild the town’s beloved school. Now, three years later after Chapman refused to let the tornado destroy them, the University of Notre Dame sent the school a cease and desist letter informing it that its use of the leprechaun mascot was infringing on the powerhouse college’s Fighting Irish trademark.

Unable and unwilling to take on Notre Dame in a costly legal battle, the school decided to quit using the fighting leprechaun, much to the dismay of local citizens. From a legal standpoint, Notre Dame has a legal duty to protect an image it trademarked in 1981. The trademark “Fighting Irish” not only denotes a school with impressive academic and football programs, but it also generates a lot of money from the sale of university apparel and goods.

While this may seem unfortunate for the small school, had Notre Dame allowed the use it would have been unable to police un-authorized uses in the future. So, had it not acted, Notre Dame would have effectively forfeited its trademark. Notre Dame was founded in 1842 in South Bend, Indiana.

Is there really a valid concern that the high school’s use of the mascot in the fighting stance will in any way alter Notre Dame’s reputation or drain any money it receives from its trademark? Perhaps consumers might have only assumed that the schools were affiliated or that the high school was sponsored in some way, which is enough for trademark infringement to occur.

Apparently the Blessed Virgin Mary, the patron saint of the private Catholic university, will show no mercy to the quiet town located over 700 miles southwest of South Bend. The high school will now have to find a new mascot to rally its spirit back. Would anyone come after use of a growling cougar or bulldog? Apparently, by protecting its intellectual property rights, Notre Dame really lived up to the words of its Fighting Irish Victory march:

“Send a volley cheer on high, Shake down the thunder from the sky,
What though the odds be great or small, Old Notre Dame will win over all”

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