Thursday, April 26, 2007
Licensing office fights use of unauthorized logos
Only Hokies United has Virginia Tech's approval to produce memorial T-shirts.
Matt Gentry | The Roanoke Times
Norris Hall on Virginia Tech's campus.
Sequence of events
Licensed Virginia Tech memorial items have yet to hit stores or online vendors.
But a quick glance at some of the items with logos up for bid on eBay would have buyers believe otherwise.
On Wednesday, a T-shirt priced at $19.99 had the Virginia Tech insignia on the front and the message "We will always remember Virginia Tech" on the back.
For Tech's Office of Licensing and Trademark Administration, apparel such as this is just one of the things making the days after last week's shootings busy ones.
In addition to trying to combat the crop of unauthorized, illegal memorial products, the office has been inundated with hundreds of inquiries from people looking to produce and sell memorial items with university approval.
"That surge kind of came the end of last week," said Christopher Clough, University Relations' director of marketing and strategic communications. "The important thing is we want to make sure this is done appropriately and, obviously, respectfully."
As of Wednesday, the office had authorized only one group -- the student organization Hokies United -- to make memorial and tribute apparel.
According to the group's Web site, memorial T-shirts will be available later this week for purchase online and in Blacksburg.
In addition, Clough said the office is finalizing agreements with two major manufacturers to produce tribute shirts and hats with a Tech ribbon logo.
The logo purposely does not include the date of the shootings.
"Anything with April 16 -- that is not something that we want to have on any apparel," Clough said. "We really believe strongly that we do not want to be defined by that date or have that become shorthand for the tragic event."
Products bearing the ribbon logo are expected to be available for sale by retailers in a matter of weeks.
Stores throughout the state have seen a run on Virginia Tech merchandise as people have rushed to wear their support for the school on their sleeves.
As a result, Clough said the more than 530 businesses that already have approval to make the normal lineup of Tech products are ramping up production to meet the demand.
Having a license, he noted, gives people the right to produce items, but licensees must submit new products with trademarks to the office for approval.
While many people are attempting to follow the proper procedure, Clough has also seen quite a few efforts to tap into public support of Tech without the university's OK.
"In some cases it's well-meaning people who are unaware, but unfortunately there are numerous cases of scams, which is hard for decent people to believe," Clough said. "The problem is rampant on eBay and other Web sites that offer T-shirts and hats that are unlicensed and frankly illegal, and the sad thing in these particular cases, is they're playing off of people's good intentions."
Clough said the Office of Licensing and Trademark Administration has been working with eBay to try to monitor and take action against unauthorized memorial products.
And on Monday, the university posted a message on its Web site advising people of "a problem with some of the 'tools' we have available to us for this expression of grief" and asking them not to purchase "any unauthorized, illegal memorial products that contain the Virginia Tech trademarks."