Twinsburg schools reach agreement with Detroit Tigers over mascot


TWINSBURG – A Northeast Ohio school district’s proposal to put its tiger mascot on license plates has taken an unexpected detour to Motor City.

Major League Baseball’s Detroit Tigers have questioned Twinsburg City Schools’ copyright claim over a blue-gray depiction of a tiger’s face, suggesting people may be mistaking the logo for the trademark orange, white and blue professional team.

The debate erupted after Ohio lawmakers approved Twinsburg’s request in 2017 to create special fundraising plaques bearing the motif. As part of the process, in the summer of 2019, the district applied for an American mark on its tiger logo, a concept it had bought from a student for $ 1,000. Shortly after, the big league team contacted the “small schools in the town of Twinsburg” to raise their concerns, Superintendent Kathryn Powers said.

“We had no idea what was going to happen next,” Powers said. The suburban district – about 20 miles from Akron and Cleveland – has about 4,200 students and 500 employees. The district has sought to make the specially marked plaques available to raise funds for its program of positive behavioral interventions and supports. But the plan lay at a roadblock as Twinsburg and the Ball Club worked on a deal to assure Detroit “there was no confusion in the market” between the logos, Powers said.

Among several differences between the two designs, the Twinsburg tiger has a closed mouth, fuller muzzle, and offers a calm, piercing gaze – while the Detroit tiger appears on the verge of a roar, showing sharp teeth and strained whiskers. and protruding. The baseball team were also concerned about the use of other tiger imagery in the district, such as its Paws on Child Hunger program; Paws is the nickname for Detroit’s costumed mascot.

“Over the next two years, we worked with the Detroit Tigers organization to develop a plan that would allow the district and the baseball club to coexist in both the US patent and trademark office and in the marketplace. “said Powers.

The school board voted 3-0 on Wednesday to approve a deal that will pave the way for the district’s continued use of its selected tiger images. Powers said the deal is a non-monetary deal.

“We believe this settlement agreement achieves that goal and ensures that our district can continue to use its trademarks with its educational, athletic and charitable services,” said Powers. “It has been a long time coming.”

David Hochman, senior director of corporate communications for Major League Baseball, said the Detroit Tigers “have reached an out-of-court resolution with the school district.

“We see this as a routine trademark issue that will allow the school to continue using the name with a clear understanding of the parameters around how it can coexist with the MLB trademarks,” said Hochman said.

Familiar combat in the world of sport

Thousands of high school and lower level sports programs share common mascots with some of the most famous sports teams.

Twinsburg, for example, is one of some 36 high schools in the state that use a tiger as a mascot, according to a tally from the Ohio High School Athletic Association. This makes it the most widely used high school mascot in Ohio.

But in a land awash with lions, tigers, bears, bulldogs, knights, fiery elves and more, these programs face obstacles in trying to mark their own concepts as unique.

Branded sporting goods represent a huge market in the United States; Industry estimates vary, but total spending typically runs into the tens of billions of dollars per year. In addition to guarding against unlicensed goods that reduce their profits. professional and college programs are rushing at attempts to brand images that closely resemble their brands. High schools also depend on sales of branded products as a source of income and to meet fan demand for team gear.

“The [Detroit] The Tigers were concerned about our Tiger logo and wanted to be certain between the [school district] trademarks and[thetrademarksofDetroitTigers”declaredPowers[heDetroitTigerstrademarks”Powerssaid[lesmarquesdéposéesdesTigersdeDetroit»adéclaréPowers[heDetroitTigerstrademarks”Powerssaid

How the Ohio Special Plate Treatment Process Works

Getting approval for a specialty nonprofit plaque in Ohio begins with submitting a petition signed by 150 people who intend to purchase the plaque to the state’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles. This must be followed by the passage of a bill sponsored by an Ohio state legislator. Over 150 organizations currently have logo plaques, including the Massillon Tigers and Canton Bulldogs plaques.

Twinsburg’s successful effort was sponsored by current State Senator Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson. in December 2019, while sitting in the Ohio House of Representatives.

Lindsey Bohrer, deputy director of communications for the Ohio Department of Public Safety, said the BMV “continues to work with schools in the city of Twinsburg to implement their logoed license plate” – but that ‘it will not be available until 2022 at the earliest.

Once the plaque is available, buyers would pay an additional $ 40 on top of the usual plaque and registration fees, of which $ 30 would go to schools in the town of Twinsburg.

Roegner said she has sponsored applications for specialty plaques for other schools and entities such as Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, and Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

“It helps them raise funds and develop a sense of community pride,” Roegner said. She added that while copyright litigation is rife, she was not familiar with those who delayed the specialty plate process prior to Twinsburg’s offering.

Powers said the process had been “quite a journey”.

“Who would have thought the Twinsburg schools would have been a talking point in Detroit?” »Said Powers. “It was a hell of a ride.”

Journalist April Helms can be contacted at [email protected]


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