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Letters of the law: Trojans own ‘SC’ logo

The University of South Carolina lost a trademark case against the other USC, Southern California. How much of a defeat it is remains to be seen.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled last week in favor of Southern California in a six-year-old dispute over the use of the “SC” logo. The Gamecocks baseball logo was the focal point of the case.

But school officials, who received the ruling Thursday night, said their initial belief is that it will not force the baseball team to change its uniforms or jettison its “SC” logos.

“We’ll have to digest that 90-page ruling, see what that says and see what, if anything, we need to do,” school spokesman Russ McKinney said.

McKinney said the decision might not affect South Carolina’s ability to collect revenue from the “SC” logo.

But if the university can’t make money off the logo, the school could decide to abandon it anyway.

Southern California showed it had used its interlocking “SC” logo for a longer, continuous time. South Carolina was ruled to have abandoned its “SC” logo in 1982 and used the current one since only 1997. Southern Cal had adopted its logo “no later” than 1967, according to the patent office.

South Carolina argued that its use of “SC” represented the state as a whole and not just the university, and that it’s use predated the Revolutionary War. But the patent office relied on the actual registration of the logo.

It found that if both schools kept using the “SC” logo, there was a likelihood of confusion. The patent office also pointed out that South Carolina used different versions of the interlocking logo before adopting the current one in 1997.

“Comparing the marks in terms of sound, we find that the marks are identical. Both would be pronounced as ‘SC,’” the ruling read. “Consumers encountering the marks for the first time might well assume that both logos are different forms of ‘SC’ used by the same school.”

The schools agreed in 1982 that each could use “USC” as a logo.

Reach Emerson at (803) 771-8676.

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