Trojan war erupts over use of school colors, mascot

Published May 10, 2008 12:33 am
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Imitation is often called the sincerest form of flattery.

But the University of Southern California in Los Angeles isn't flattered by the way a small private school in Murray has conflated its name into the "USC" moniker, adopted colors similar to USC's cardinal and gold, and appropriated a Trojan mascot similar to the California school's.

"We have a robust marketing program for uses such as these, and any other use of our trademark is of great concern to us," said Liz Kennedy, director of trademarks and licensing at USC.

Utah Southvalley Community Private School at Woodland Hills, 5858 S. 900 East, confirmed Friday that it received notice from USC Thursday regarding the trademark issue, but school admissions director Dennis Liddell declined any comment about its content or the medium in which it was sent.

Bob Jones, president of the Utah school's board of trustees, said he hadn't read the notice, but understood from a conversation with Liddell that it was "a standard, 'You're not supposed to be using anything we have trademarked' form letter."

Jones said his school, known until last summer as Woodland Hills, has done nothing amiss in appropriating the initials or mascot. "They [University of Southern California] do not have a trademark on USC. How could they?" he asked. "The University of South Carolina has the exact same letters.

"I'm not aware that we need to make any changes. If I'm made aware that we need to make changes, we'll make them. Right now, I'm pretty sure we're not infringing on anyone's trademark."

Trademark disputes aside, some parents at the school have been upset over what they say is a change in the school's mission from helping autistic students to greater emphasis on athletics. Jones has said his school has not changed its focus.

Jones said he chose the Trojan as school mascot because he is related to Priam, king of Troy. Homer, who scholars believe lived during either the 8th or 9th century B.C., wrote about the mythical king in his epic poem "The Iliad."

"I'd be happy to give you that lineage," Jones said. "I've got a nice little chart going all the way back."

Kennedy said almost all arguments over USC trademark violations are settled in short order. "We expect, and hope, that this is resolved quickly and amicably."

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