UO quacks about sales of bootlegs

EUGENE — The University of Oregon has no interest in being ranked No. 1 — in trademark infringements.

The University of Oregon's rise to the top of the college football rankings has coincided with a spike in the number of vendors who hawk unlicensed Ducks-related apparel outside Autzen Stadium on game days, officials say.

During Saturday's Oregon-Washington game, university public safety officers and marketing officials seized more than 350 pieces of "counterfeit" items from people who had planned to make a quick buck selling bootlegged clothing and jewelry to fans of the nation's No. 1 team.

"We're seeing more of this sort of thing this year than we have in the past," said Matt Dyste, Oregon's director of marketing and brand management.

"As the (team's) success has grown, so have the number of folks" who sell Ducks merchandise without the university's permission, Dyste said.

Oregon officials say that's illegal, and that the uptick in parking lot sales has prompted them to broaden their so-called "trademark enforcement" efforts this year. Dyste cited a state trademark law that forbids anyone to peddle any imitation item that "is likely to cause confusion" as to its origin.

The university has more than 300 trademark licensees, nearly 60 of which — including Nike, the University of Oregon's largest licensee — are based in Oregon. Licensees pay royalties to the university to use its identifying marks on items they sell.

The University of Oregon's licensing department must approve each product's design before it can be sold. Dyste said many of the items seized outside Autzen this year wouldn't make the cut.

"We see plenty of graphics that aren't exactly family-friendly," he said.

One example of illicit, R-rated merchandise can be seen on the University of Oregon Department of Public Safety's blog, which includes a picture of a man posing outside the stadium while wearing a T-shirt that bears the phrase "Go Duck Yourself" and a graphic of the school's mascot with both of its middle fingers raised.

The photo was posted following the Ducks Oct. 21 home game against UCLA, during which Oregon officials seized about 115 unlicensed items.

While the state's trademark infringement law allows a brand owner such as the university to ask a judge to order the manufacturer of an imitation product to cease sales and surrender all profits, people who hawk unlicensed goods could also face federal counterfeiting charges, Portland trademark attorney Anne Glazer said.

"I wouldn't say that the university is limited to civil remedies," Glazer said. She added that situations such as the one UO officials face have become increasingly common in recent years.

Oregon officials say that all of the items they've seized from unlicensed vendors during recent games have been handed over voluntarily. Dyste said the seized products are either destroyed or distributed to international aid organizations that work overseas.

Some of the sellers have claimed not to know they were breaking the law, while others have pleaded for a warning before parting with their unlicensed gear, Dyste said.

"We hear a lot of different stories," he said.

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