Ohio State Slaps T-shirt Maker With Trademark Lawsuit

The Ohio State University has filed a trademark-infringement lawsuit against a T-shirt shop, according to a report in the Columbus Dispatch.

Lamp Apparel, owned by former OSU basketball player Brandon Fuss-Cheatham and Scott Kaiser, designs and sells clothing, much of it related to Ohio sports teams and state pride.

The lawsuit seeks to stop the Columbus, OH shop from using Ohio State’s trademarks and also asks for damages. Included in the lawsuit is a photo of an “OS YOU” T-shirt made by Lamp that was posted on Instagram in 2013 by Jared Sullinger, another former OSU basketball player.

“Our strategy remains to vigorously protect the brand and trademarks of Ohio State because these assets bring value to the university, which benefits our students and faculty by supporting our core academic mission of teaching and research,” university spokesman Chris Davey said in a statement.

A slew of apparel decorators commenting on the Facebook page of Wearables magazine, Counselor’s sister publication, applauded Ohio State’s actions. “As a Greek-licensed vendor, there is nothing that steams me more than to see people who infringe,” wrote Kristin Fjeseth Comer, owner of The Little Dragonfly. “They all have standards and rules they require licensees to abide by, and the others are just stealing.”

Christina Petee of Sew On & Sew Forth in Mount Vernon, OH, observed: “I get asked all the time to make OSU items. I could have made a fortune on scarlet and gray items. But I’m also very aware that they will, and do, come after offenders. As well they should.”

Ohio State is particularly aggressive when it comes to unauthorized use of its trademarked symbols. The university has already won cases against online custom T-shirt retailers Skreened and Teespring.

In November, OSU filed a similar lawsuit against CafePress. In that ongoing suit, the school alleges that the on-demand retailer is selling clothing and merchandise bearing the words “Buckeyes,” “O-H-I-O” or photos of head football coach Urban Meyer, without authorization. Ohio State is seeking a permanent injunction against CafePress and damages of $1 million for every type of product sold. The school also wants all profits from the sales of the unauthorized merchandise.

The lawsuits are part of a growing trend among universities, Ohio State marketing professor Deborah Mitchell told the Columbus Dispatch. “It’s becoming more and more of a focus as universities are searching for every revenue source they can find, and they have realized one of their biggest sources is their brand,” Mitchell said.

Learn more about how to go after college dollars the right way in this recent feature. You can also take an in-depth look at the thorny issue of intellectual property rights in this Wearables feature on copyright and trademark.