This past year, Rutgers sent a cease-and-desist letter to a Louisiana high school over its use of the University’s trademarked block "R."
Dan Gressett, principal at Ruston High School, said that the school was initially contacted earlier in the year by Learfield IMG College, a company representing the University, regarding the use of the block "R."
“We went back and forth with this company for a little while, just kind of asking what we were allowed to do, if we would be able to pay a one-time licensing fee,” Gressett said. “As we went back and forth, we finally realized that we were going to need to change our logo.”
A statement sent by Rutgers to NJ Advance Media following its communication and agreement with Ruston High School described its reasoning for addressing this trademark situation.
“Rutgers, like other major universities, federally registers its trademarks, which include the block 'R,'” according to the statement. “When trademark infringement instances come to our attention, we address them for several important reasons: to maintain the trademark registration, to avoid confusion among brand marks and to ensure that logos registered under Rutgers’ name are used for their intended purpose.”
Rutgers had thanked Ruston High School for its cooperation in this situation following the cease-and-desist letter, according to NJ Advance Media.
Gressett said that the school understood why it was contacted, and that it knew it just had to move on and begin making the necessary changes.
“(I’m) not surprised. I am very familiar with college athletics, I played college sports. That goes on all over the country,” Gressett said. “Like I told people here, it’s not like Rutgers was reaching out trying to pick on Ruston High School.”
Gressett said that while there may have been an initial shock, it is not something they were upset about.
He said that once the University and the high school came to an agreement and laid out the timeline for replacing the logo, they knew there were changes that needed to be made in order to move on from this situation.
As Rutgers had said in its statement, it has given Ruston High School officials up to 10 years to replace its logo on major athletic equipment, as well as to resolve any other trademark infringement issues.
“We have an MOU, a memorandum of understanding, with that company that outlines the timeline to get the logo changed — to get it off of digital media, to get it off of uniforms, to get it off of fields — all of that,” Gressett said.
A company has already been designing products for them, and the school already began sporting a new logo on its jerseys as it opened its football season, Gressett said.
“I think that is going to fall in the timeline with normal replacement time. Rutgers was, or Learfield, who was representing Rutgers, was very lenient on the timeframe and understood that there would be some costs involved, so we’re not sitting here mad at Rutgers,” Gressett said.
Gressett also said that there was a lot of misinformation out there about the situation and how it had happened, especially from people in the area of Ruston High School.
Many people had made it out as if there was a lawsuit between the University and Ruston High School regarding the trademarked block "R," but Gressett said that there was no discussion of a lawsuit at any point.
“There was even some information out there on social media that Rutgers had seen news coverage on the tornado that we had in Ruston, and that it had shown some video footage of that 'R,' that was totally incorrect,” Gressett said. “We had received initial information from Learfield several months before the tornado, so that had nothing to do with it whatsoever.”
In the end, Gressett said that while the school will not be completely free of the block "R" for years on some things, such as its turf football and baseball fields, this "R" will probably be nonexistent for everything else on its campus within a year.
“To be honest, in my opinion, some people made it look bigger than it really was,” Gressett said. “We have kind of moved on from it and have other stuff to worry about.”