When thinking about trademarks, you may think of a word, name, or symbol to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from goods manufactured or sold by others, and to indicate the source of the goods. You may have visions of the Apple logo, or Louis Vuitton’s monogram trademark, but what about one single letter? In this You be the Judge, we will examine the case of the college Ws. The University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) is a public research university located in Madison, Wisconsin, with around 28,999 undergraduate, 8,860 graduate, and 2,563 professional students. The “Motion W” mark is a UW-Madison logo. Washburn University (Washburn) is a public institution of higher learning located in Topeka, Kansas, with around 6,300 undergraduate and 1,000 graduate students. The university uses a W to promote its athletics teams. Their mascot is a gentleman by the name of Ichabod, as the endowment founding the school was from Ichabod Washburn, a famous 19th-century industrialist. In late 2007, the UW-Madison filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Washburn claiming it “is making use of both identical and confusingly similar variations of the Motion W mark, in a blatant attempt to trade on the goodwill of Wisconsin.” In September 2008, Washburn agreed to spend thousands of dollars to modify the logo. Washburn will add an element to the athletic W logo like the Washburn name, the word “Ichabod” or the image of the Ichabod. Washburn claims this agreement is a business decision and does not acknowledge any wrongdoing. Although the parties settled the case, what do you think? Do you think the Ws are “confusingly similar?” In this “case of the Ws,” you be the judge!
Comment below with your opinion!
See other You Be the Judge posts.