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Should De La Salle Have Exclusive Rights to Its Own Name?

The Catholic school fought — and lost — a battle over the De La Salle brand being used unofficially by companies selling sweaters, T-shirts and more. Were they right to fight?

Where did you get that De La Salle sweater? At the official school store, or one of the many unlicensed merchants selling swag online?

According to the school's president, Mark DeMarco, the unofficial use of the De La Salle brand means that the school is losing potential revenue.

"Financially speaking, we are always attentive and never comfortable," wrote DeMarco in De La Salle's Union Magazine. "We seek to keep tuition affordable, to improve our facilities, to build our endowment, and to answer our families’ needs for financial aid."

So in 2011, De La Salle filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against a company called Prep Sportswear for selling "De La Salle" and "Spartans" sweaters and T-shirts in the De La Salle colors. 

But De La Salle lost. Prep argued that the name of a religious figure — John Baptist de La Salle — could not be trademarked, and that the school's trademarks were invalid because there are other schools named after John Baptist de La Salle.

The one victory, said DeMarco in his article, is that "the company’s website no longer contains merchandise claiming to represent our school."

However, while the Prep site has indeed removed the "De La Salle-Concord" page, similar "De La Salle" merchandise with a Spartan logo is available on other school pages, such as St. John Baptist De La Salle School, which is a K-8 school in Grenada Hills. There are also other sites selling Spartan gear, such as MyLocker.com 

The only official merchandise is sold by the De La Salle bookstore.

Do you think De La Salle should have exclusive rights to the De La Salle brand? Or should companies be able to sell their own De La Salle and Spartan gear, offering wider choice? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Jack Enright March 05, 2013 at 06:38 PM
Anyone who lives in northern California and is interested in high school football is likely aware of De La Salle (DLS) and their sports prowess. To think that the name "DLS Spartans" would be confused with a primary grade school located somewhere else in the country, and therefore should be exempt from protected status, is ludicrous. The law may not account for regional recognition of a school and mascot name, but in this case, the law certainly falls short of common sense. Jack Enright
Lauren Prater March 05, 2013 at 11:17 PM
If the court said that Prep Sportswear’s use of the terms didn’t infringe any trademark, then that’s what the law is. Why should any organization be able to control all the prices and products when customers aren’t really confused about where the products come from? If someone wants to spend a lot more and benefit the school by their purchase, they can certainly choose to do that, but that doesn’t mean the law can shut down all fair competition. -Lauren Prater

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