By on February 11, 2010

The Orlando Sentinel reports that “a couple of years ago,” Seminole County’s Lake Mary High School made the curious decision to ditch its previous mascot (now known as “the old goat”), and adopt the Dodge Ram logo as its own. Chrysler only just found out, thanks to a local tipster, despite the logo’s presence on gym floors, t-shirts and athletic uniforms. Needless to say, a cease-and-desist showed up, and Lake Mary will be having to live with “the old goat” from now on. As Chrysler’s lawyer puts it [via Overlawyered]:

As I am sure you can appreciate from your years of work with the board, control of use of a mark by enthusiastic students and parents is quite simply not practical, and I know the school and board would not want to be in the position of censoring student expression associated with the design,

Plus, it’s a great opportunity to teach the kids that stealing registered trademarks isn’t smart. But the real interesting angle is what this says about the Ram logo. The design was clearly compelling enough to be worth copying, but the fact that nobody recognized it as the logo of a vehicle brand (for “a couple of years” anyway) is… bizarre.

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26 Comments on “Imitating Chrysler Is Not The Sincerest Form Of Flattery...”

  • avatar

    I was driving through Arkansas once… saw a dry cleaners called “Superman Cleaners”— even had the superman symbol on the door. Judging by the sign, they’d been there for a long long time. I didn’t rat them out, of course, because why be a jerk. Everyone else who has driven by that place must have thought the same thing.

  • avatar

    that was just laziness on the schools part, all they had to do was copy it and modify it a little

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Guess it’s beyond Chrysler to do the classy thing and look the other way.

    Chrysler could turn it into a win by having one of their artists work with the kids to modify the graphic into something everybody can live with, maybe even sponsor a logo contest.

    • 0 avatar

      You are kidding, right? Had Chrysler known about it two years ago I can bet they would have reacted the same way. Now RAM is a brand even, too. I also find it hard to believe no one recognized it as the RAM logo….enough to think somebody did, and they just thought Chrysler wouldn’t care. Big mistake.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m guessing they did look the other way. Until someone with not enough to do had to send a “formal” notification that forced them to protect their copyright. Even Chrysler doesn’t waste money on lawyers unless they have to.

    • 0 avatar

      Beyond the fact that it took a couple years to realize what the school did, how can anyone even remotely criticize Dodge for sending out a cease and desist?

    • 0 avatar

      Legally, if you can establish that Chrysler didn’t enforce it’s trademarks, they lose them. So turning a blind eye isn’t really an option.

  • avatar

    There’s a ‘Tony Soprano’s Pizza’ joint on the White Hoorse Pike in South Jersey, complete with menacing silhouette of short overweight Italian mobster. I can’t imagine any of the Calvin pissing on Brand X car stickers I see are authorized by anyone (although I once saw a Calvin pissing on Chevy in the back glass of a GMC Jimmy, classic). You can never stop a copycat. I mean look at China, right.

  • avatar

    Keep the sign. “DODGE” the ram’s head logo and everything else will be gone soon….I doubt the new Chinese owners of dodge trucks will want to keep the logo.

  • avatar

    they don’t teach plagarism at that school?

  • avatar

    The school district was being silly and deserves to be slapped down. They could have easily picked a Ram’s head that was somewhat different. Given that the school district is unlikely to go into the car business, no consumer confusion would have arisen. But I think a problem is that both are into the accessories business – caps, t-shirts, logos etc.

    A relevant case perhaps is when Kellog, which uses the “Tony the Tiger” mascot, sued Exxon for its “put a Tiger in your tank” mascot, or perhaps it was vice versa, several years ago. The tigers may have looked similar, but it’s unlikely consumers mixed them up.

    Chrysler probably has no choice given the law, since any company has to aggressively monitor its trademarks.

  • avatar

    This is already an established school logo. It’s on, quite literally, everything. If I were a Chrysler executive, and I caught this before it was painted on wood, sure I would have stopped them, but since it’s already a symbol of the school, I’d capitalize on it instead.

    This is an opportunity for some great publicity, and with an audience that Chrysler needs to reach the most: young people. Give the school a gift, a Ram work truck (a Dakota or a last-gen Ram, of course). Make a big deal out of it. Have a ceremony, make sure everybody and their mothers shows up and sees Chrysler’s generosity on display.

    You’ll have a high school community full of people that are going to consider a Mopar for their next vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      I see this kind of thing happening all of the time, with sports teams. My school system’s teams are all called the Falcons, and the logo looks like an exact reproduction of the Atlanta Falcons icon. I’m assuming we’re licensing this thing, at least I would hope so. Another school system up the road from us are the Rams, and they have a logo that reminds me of the Dodge Ram logo from several years back. Again, I’m assuming everyone is in compliance here. Don’t know it for sure, though, after reading about this school system…

      My point is, it’s too bad that someone didn’t see this as an opportunity to offer the school system an easy out; i.e. license the use of the logo for a very inexpensive rate. I like Cmdr Fish’s idea, too. This way everyone wins. To be honest, I don’t know if copyright law would allow something like I’m proposing, but I would like to think something could be worked out.

  • avatar

    If you don’t defend your property, or make exceptions, you set precedent, once this happens, your logo will eventually end-up on a porta-potty…

    (now, now, no snarky comments comparing Dodge products to a porta-potty.)

    • 0 avatar

      Yes. IANAL but intellectual property consists of things such as trademarks, copyrights and patents. Trademarks need to be enforced. If it’s found that the company tolerated violations, it may slip into public domain. That’s why Xerox was running ads at one time telling people to use the word “photocopy” rather than “xerox”.

      In contrast I believe it’s possible to patent something and tolerate its unwitting adoption by others until the violation is well established as to maximize suing potential.

    • 0 avatar

      HA! a Chrysler port a potty…the door would fall off the hinges, the seat would be loose, and snap off after a few months, and the whole thing would leak.

  • avatar

    The school should have approached Chrysler and asked permission to use the logo. Maybe they would have said OK. This happens a lot with the Broncos logo, Packers/Grambling, etc.

    Recently there was a court case between USC and USC (the one in LA and the one in So. Car) for interlocking letters. They even looked different, and USC-LA still won, even though that school is newer than the other one. Another example – Dearborn Edsel Ford High School – the Thunderbirds. Across the street from Ford – and I am sure they have permission.

    You can’t wait forever to sue on patent infringement – you can only sue for the last 6 years of infringement. And of course if you don’t pay the patent maintenance fees, you are SOL (legal term).

    The school should have tweaked the logo, easy enough to do.

  • avatar

    As an intellectual property lawyer, I’d say that Chrysler is really reaching on this one. Too complicated to go into here, but the legal basis for a cease-and-desist letter is very weak.

    Not to mention the fact that Chrysler does not get any benefit from forcing the school to use another mark. Why not just accept the free advertising?

    • 0 avatar

      As far as I’m aware, they’re obliged to protect the mark, or it’s assumed they don’t care and the mark goes into the public domain. Of course, IANAL, and apparently you are… Can you elaborate on why they have a weak case? If the school is selling various accoutrement with the logo, and if Chrysler also sells such things, then it seems fairly clear.

      In the end, what’s really pathetic is the lesson this school taught its students: A good result requires creativity, talent, and a lot of work – so it’s easier to just rip someone else off and avoid the hard part. Way to set an example!

      In other news – I wonder what hapless artist had his goat sketch ripped off for the school’s *old* logo?…

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, they should have had a contest where students submitted artwork for the new logo, and a winning design used (presumably after having a professional artist “clean it up” a bit).

      I Am Not A Lawyer either, but I’m a bit nit-picky for which “I-ANAL” works quite well :-)

  • avatar

    It should not have been difficult for Chrysler to give permission, perhaps even licensing the school to use the logo for say $1 per year.

    OTOH, it should not have been difficult to modify the Ram slightly so as to avoid copyright infringement. (A Ram was the symbol at my school, but it didn’t look like the Dodge Logo)

    We live in a country where corporations are too stupid to see the PR value and ease of a simple licensing agreement, and in which schools are too stupid to modify a logo enough to avoid infringement. I don’t have much hope for this country.

  • avatar
    chitbox dodge

    It is funny in a way though. The original dodge brothers company started using the image/marketing plan of saying their vehicles were as tough as an old goat. It didn’t evolve into a ram’s head until much later, way later. There was even Super Stocker running an image of a goat on the side of his car. It was also way beore anybody even new what a GTO was.

    I can guess chrysler was pretty peeved. They have slapped the words Ram or Hemi or Mopar on just about anything that could sell. They don’t need anybody horning in on that action.

  • avatar

    Just hope they don’t start using my employer’s ram logo:

  • avatar

    There’s a dry-cleaner shop I’ve seen called Camaro Cleaners. It has no Camaro logo, but you can tell it was named after the car. I don’t think GM has asked them to stop.

  • avatar

    I know there are some people on the Internets who believe that intellectual property wants to be free, but the fact is that Lake Mary knew what it was doing, and in fact had done it before. They deserved the C&D. Maybe this time they’ll learn.

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