26, No. 17, April 5, 2007
UI retains trademark rights to Chief Illiniwek imagery
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
The UI plans to maintain ownership of the trademark rights to the Chief Illiniwek logo, the controversial symbol of the Urbana campus for about 80 years that was retired after the performance at the final home men’s basketball game Feb. 21.
And fans of the Chief will have a few more months to buy T-shirts, mouse pads, mugs and the myriad other products bearing the Chief’s name or image before retailers will be required to stop selling them.
In a March 30 memorandum to the UI’s more than 400 licensees, John Greeley, director of university services for Collegiate Licensing Co. in Atlanta, the university’s licensing agency, notified licensees that they would have until April 16 to book orders for merchandise featuring the Chief logo or the terms “Chief” or “Chief Illiniwek” before a 60-day depletion period would be implemented.
During the 60-day depletion period, which will run from April 16 – June 15, licensees will be permitted to sell their existing inventory of Chief merchandise, including merchandise in the production cycle. Licensees with orders scheduled for delivery after June 15 will be required to report those orders to CLC before April 30 and obtain special approval.
Licensees will have until Dec. 31, 2007, to sell or distribute wholesale merchandise, after which time they will be required to turn over their inventory to CLC for disposition.
However, retail outlets will be allowed to sell legally purchased merchandise until their inventories are exhausted.
“CLC officials indicated that it can be four to six months or longer between (the time) when a sportswear company places an order until the actual shipment/delivery of the items, with subsequent retail sales taking place over a period of time after that,” said Robin Kaler, associate chancellor and director of Public Affairs. “It is our intent to quickly end production under our current licensing arrangements of these items while allowing vendors a reasonable amount of time to deplete existing inventories and items already ordered.”
On Feb. 16, Lawrence Eppley, chair of the UI Board of Trustees, announced plans to retire the Chief, although at least one member of the board questioned the legality of the decision, since the trustees had not voted on it. The UI and several other universities with Native American team names, mascots and imagery were barred from hosting tournaments under a policy that the NCAA adopted in August 2005. Eppley’s announcement of the decision to retire the symbol immediately made the UI eligible to host postseason events, but its continued removal from the sanction list would be provisional upon its not using the name Chief Illiniwek and the related Native American imagery, the NCAA said in a Feb. 15 letter.
At their March 13 meeting, the trustees voted 9-1 to retire the symbol, and left disposition of it in the hands of Chancellor Richard Herman. Despite the symbol’s retirement, the UI and CLC plan to continue to protect the university’s ownership rights against infringement.
A high point of many sporting events for Chief supporters was the Chief’s halftime dance, a tradition since 1926. Herman has asked the Marching Illini to provide recommendations on how to preserve the halftime tradition – without Native American imagery.
“In all of this, it is Chancellor Herman’s intention that there be opportunity for healing and the creation of community,” Kaler said.