Patent office sides with Iowa in USM logo case

By The Associated Press

HATTIESBURG — Administrative judges with a federal agency have sided with the University of Iowa in a case that appears to put the Golden Eagle logo of the University of Southern Mississippi in jeopardy.

The logo, unveiled in 2003, was created by USM graduate Rodney Richardson. In 2004, University of Iowa officials argued that it was confusingly similar to their Tiger Hawk emblem.

As a result, USM’s trademark application was denied last week by judges in the United States Patent and Trademark Office, who ruled 2-1 in favor of Iowa, according to a report in The Hattiesburg American (http://bit.ly/niiemk).

USM athletic director Richard Giannini said Tuesday that the university’s attorneys are reviewing the 54-page decision.

Jason Bush, an attorney with Baker Donelson in Jackson, said USM could appeal the decision, which was made by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C.

“In the alternative,” wrote Bush in an email, “USM has the option of presenting additional evidence or raising additional claims in the United States District Court in any district venue that is proper.”

Administrative trademark judge David Bucher wrote in his majority opinion that he backed Iowa’s claim that there would be “the likelihood of confusion” in merchandise sales between the schools, rejecting USM’s detailed argument on differences between the two logos:

“The overall similarity in appearance of the marks on the goods, particularly in light of the use of identical color schemes, creates virtually identical commercial impressions,” Bucher wrote.

USM made the case that the use of birds of prey as mascots is prevalent in college sports along with the use of bird heads as logos. USM submitted several examples to back its claim.

Bucher also shot down that argument: “When making a visual comparison between Iowa’s Hawkeyes marks and each of these designs, we find that none of these Division I third-party marks remotely resembles Iowa’s Hawkeyes designs. Certainly, none is as similar to Iowa’s marks as is (USM’s) mark.”