ISU trademark office recalls volunteer center’s ornaments

Matt Kuhns

If you bought one of the Story County Volunteer Center’s 1998 Christmas ornaments, hold on to it because it could become a collector’s item.

The ornaments, which featured the Iowa State Cyclones’ Cy logo, were removed from stores recently because the manufacturer was not licensed with the ISU trademark office.

“A combination of a miscommunication with the university and manufacturer” caused the licensing problem, said Linda Morische, the center’s executive director.

The ornament series, which in past years has featured the Campanile and the Memorial Union, is sold to raise funds for the Volunteer Center.

Nita Lovejoy, assistant director of ISU’s Office of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer, said a retailer carrying the ornaments was suspicious and contacted her office, which then investigated and learned that the manufacturer was not licensed.

Lovejoy informed the Volunteer Center of the error, and Morische voluntarily pulled the unsold ornaments from stores.

According to trademark law, ISU must monitor the quality and consistency of products with its mark or the university could lose the trademark rights, Lovejoy said.

She said it is the responsibility of manufacturers to ensure that they are licensed to use trademarked imagery on products. Manufacturers “should know about using trademarks and copyrights,” she said.

Lovejoy said when trademark violations are discovered, her office investigates the manufacturers, and if it appears that the violations were unintentional, then university officials will try to work with them.

Lovejoy said occasionally, some manufacturers try to get away without paying the licensing fee.

She said in this case, Precision Art, the manufacturer of the ornaments, simply made a mistake.

Occasionally, unlicensed products can be altered to correct trademark violations, but Lovejoy said that is not an option with the ornaments.

“It’s quite costly,” Morische said of the ornament recall. She said the actual cost of the ornaments added to the potential profit from the sales was around $6,000, a substantial part of the center’s budget.

Morische said the original ornaments will be destroyed, but she has been trying to find another firm to manufacture new ones.

“I’m looking to do whatever I can to recoup the losses,” she said.