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Ligonier Valley doesn't want to butt heads with copyright law

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By Chris Foreman
Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010
 

The rams head symbol was supposed to help mark a new era for the Ligonier Valley School District.

Despite the contentious closing of Laurel Valley Middle/High School for this fall, school directors last spring adopted the former school's nickname for the consolidated Ligonier Valley High School.

Officials then had a contest for students to select the logo for the Rams athletic teams, favoring a profile view of a ram's head with its horn in the shape of a "C."

But the Collegiate Licensing Company informed the school district in August that the chosen logo was trademarked by Virginia Commonwealth University, and now the district is in the process of phasing it out.

"Once the students selected it, we OK'd it because we thought it was all right," school Director Irv Tantlinger said Tuesday. "(The university has) been very cordial. We're trying to accommodate them in every way that we can."

The logo issue flared up in recent months as Save Our Rams Education, the citizen group opposed to the consolidation, criticized the snafu and contacted the Atlanta licensing company about the similarities.

CLC, which counts Richmond-based VCU among its 160 college clients, has been contacting high schools across the nation to request that they stop using logos that are similar to those trademarked by universities.

Laurel Valley formerly used a front-on image of a rams head, while Ligonier Valley was known as the Mounties.

"I did bring to their attention that we have a perfectly good ram that we used for 40 years" at Laurel Valley, SORE member Barb Boring said. "Why not use that?"

CLC contacted district officials in August, but the merged football team already had a decal of the newly chosen logo on their helmets.

The school board's solicitor, Dennis Rafferty, said the district isn't interested in interfering with the Virginia college's trademark.

"The district has already started trying to come up with a modified design that will not create any issue," he said yesterday. "We absolutely want no litigation involving this issue. We're going to come up with a design that's distinctive."

Rafferty termed any costs associated with the logo change "absolutely minimal."

High School Principal Ron Baldonieri and Athletic Director Brett Miller referred questions about the logo to Superintendent Christine Oldham, who could not be reached for comment.

A VCU spokeswoman said it usually confronts three to five copyright infringement issues a year.

"We issued a cease-and-desist letter really as an appropriate step to protect VCU's trademark," said Anne Buckley, interim director of communications and public relations. "The logo in question was indistinguishable from our protected mark, which was first used, I believe, in January of 2002."

Tantlinger said directors don't endorse the logo's use because of the infringement, but notes that the board is more consumed with moving the district forward following the consolidation.

"This is not a big deal, as far as we're concerned, but what is a big deal is getting our children acclimated," he said.

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