University[TM]: Trademark Rights Accretion in Higher Education

Article excerpt


In the fall of 2012, (1) undertook a study to collect comprehensive trademark registration data for colleges and universities within the United States. The main objectives of the data collection portion of the study were to obtain federal trademark registration data concerning type and frequency of trademark activity in higher education.

A. Methods

In order to obtain this data, a structured search of a database containing trademark records (the U.S. Trademark Electronic Search System, or "TESS") was conducted to locate trademark registrations meeting the inclusion criteria. (181) Maintained by the USPTO, the TESS database contains a free-form search tool that allows for tailored searches within a variety of fields, including the registrant name field.

Each trademark record was individually examined to verify that the registrant was in fact a college or university, that the trademark was "live" (i.e., subsisting and not abandoned or cancelled), and that the college or university listed as the registrant is located within the United States. Upon verification, specific information for each trademark record was exported for compilation in a dataset in Excel. Each record in the dataset contains information about each trademark's institutional owner, including the following: institution name; for profit / non-profit status; public/private status; (182) religious affiliation status; (183) and miscellaneous (for any relevant information not otherwise listed, such as change in registration). The dataset also contains the following information for each trademark, as obtained through TESS: serial number; registration date; registration number; date of first use; filing date; mark (either the image of the mark, or the words that constitute the mark); mark type (whether the trademark is a design mark, stylized mark, or word mark); the class(es) of goods/services for which the mark is registered; and the description of the goods/services for which the mark is registered.

Many records returned in the searches were excluded from the dataset for failing to meet the study's criteria. For example, records of various foreign universities and colleges that own trademark registrations were excluded. Also, records for institutions not included within the Carnegie Classifications database (e.g., the American College of Physicians, Pensacola Christian College) were excluded, as were records for trademark registrations originally owned by a college or university but subsequently assigned to an entity not affiliated with the institution. (184)

Trademark records in the dataset were edited for consistency. For example, some institutions register trademarks under corporate names that do not indicate their affiliation with a particular institution, such as "University Athletic Association," which actually is the entity responsible for intercollegiate athletics at the University of Florida. (185) In these instances, the college or university that is the real party in interest for the trademark was noted in the dataset. (186) Other instances where editing was required occurred for institutions belonging to a university system. Some university systems register trademarks in the name of the governing body of the system, whereas others allow individual campuses to register trademarks in their own names. For purposes of this study, any trademark registration of an institution included within a university system was treated as owned by the university system

The review, edits, and refinements identified above were made over several weeks in the fall of 2012. The final dataset resulting from this process included 10,265 trademark records, out of 13,042 records reviewed. This dataset was then analyzed using a variety of descriptive statistics, as further discussed in Part IV.

B. Limitations

As with any empirical project, this study has several limitations. …