University issues ‘cease and desist’ to student body

Students can always find a way to piss off university administration. It’s part of their raison d’etre. If they aren’t getting drunk and turning over cars, they’re burning couches or peeing in their neighbors’ shrubs. But hey, we were all kids once, right?

logoThe students’ latest scheme to irritate administrators is — well — it’s downright diabolical. Students at my school apparently are making unauthorized use of the university logo on their social media sites. How dare they share their school affiliation with their online community :-)

I’d love to tell you this comes from The Onion, but it comes from the legal department. And it’s scary, because I’ve used that logo a few times myself. When Kent State does something great, I write about it and use the logo. When the university does something worth criticizing, I also use the logo.

Let’s face it, without a visual component, no one clicks your Facebook link. Next thing you know, you’re irrelevant.

Since I write this blog for educational purposes, I’ve always considered use of these visuals to be covered by the doctrine of fair use. And for 7 years, no one’s said a word about it, so I figured they were cool with it.

Here’s the email that went to our student body today. I doubt anyone from the PR department was consulted about potential public reaction. Hell, maybe there won’t be any reaction. But I do hope our alumni didn’t get the same email. A lot of loyal KSU grads use the logo on their social media sites, and some of those folks even send us money.

To: Undisclosed recipients:
Subject: Unauthorized Use of Kent State University Trademarks

Kent State students,

Visual communications through social media accounts and Web pages that incorporate Kent State University’s logos, trademarks and service marks, like the example provided below, reflect not only on the university’s style and character, but also on the traditions, strengths and values of the entire university community.  For this reason, the university takes the unauthorized use of its trademarks and service marks very seriously.

It has come to our attention that certain trademarks and service marks owned and federally registered by the university are being used without authorization in connection with social media accounts on Twitter and other sites. Use of the university’s marks without the written permission of the university’s Office of General Counsel is prohibited.

If you are maintaining a social media account that incorporates a Kent State trademark or service mark without authorization, we ask that you immediately cease use of the mark. We further ask all students to refrain from any future unauthorized use of university trademarks or service marks on any social media site.  Continued unauthorized use of the university’s trademarks and service marks may result in disciplinary and/or legal action.

The use of the university’s marks requires written permission from the Office of General Counsel. To pursue permission, or for further information, contact the Office of General Counsel at (email redacted).

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Office of General Counsel
Kent State University

6 thoughts on “University issues ‘cease and desist’ to student body

  1. In this story from KentWired, the student media website, reporter makes a rookie mistake in failing to ask the tough questions and buying the company line.

    Social media has brought forth so many new issues. All the more reason PR and Legal must work together closely. Keep in mind, KSU’s legal department was merely acting to protect the brand and the trademark. It’s the tunnel vision that hurt them — that, and the naive notion that you can use command-and-control management in a digital world. The Cluetrain Manifesto warned us about this 14 years ago.

  2. That’s one of the motivations, Danny. But why threaten everyone in the process? Go after the offenders, respect the others. Students I’ve spoken with get why it’s happening, but are insulted by the approach. As they should be.

  3. This makes me want to use the seal on my FB cover page just to see what would happen to an alum. But, then again, you always knew I was a trouble maker. Wonder when the lawyers will want to approve which cars are deserving of the KSU window stickers– wouldn’t want some tacky car sporting the seal.

  4. Excellent quote from a Facebook thread on this topic. Posted by Israel Cajigas. I need to meet this guy.

    “KSU’s heavy-handed approach is typical of old entrenched institutions who fear the web (and social platforms especially) and view it as a threat and not an opportunity.”

  5. Like you, I also post Kent State’s logo while talking or writing about the Univerisity (good or bad). Logos are imporant, visuals are important. If the logo is being used in a respectable manner, I see no issue with this. Using and sharing the Kent State logo will raise awareness of the school, success and negatives. With that being said, it’s ridiculous to think by eliminating the use of the logo, the reputation will get better. Does not using the logo apply to LinkedIn profiles, apparel, stickers and merchandise? By limiting certain uses, the University is not being content neutral.

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