Pubdate: Fri, 10 Apr 2009
Source: Athens Banner-Herald (GA)
Copyright: 2009 Athens Newspapers Inc
Cited: National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws


If University of Georgia officials truly believe the campus chapter of
the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is
infringing on a university trademark, why aren't they pursuing the
issue in the regular court system, rather than through the
university's student judiciary organization?

While it's true the student judiciary can put the group on probation
or suspension, or can disband it altogether, the student judiciary is
not competent - or shouldn't be considered competent - to determine
whether the NORML chapter, an officially recognized UGA student group,
has misappropriated a UGA trademark.

There are precedents for zealous defenses of the university's
trademarks. In December 2006, the University of Georgia Athletic
Association, upon whose board sits UGA President Michael Adams, filed
a lawsuit against Atlanta-based Bulldog Movers on the basis of the
fact that the company used the word "bulldog," UGA's mascot, and the
color red, one of the school's colors, as part of its logo.

In 2005, the University System Board of Regents, which oversees the
state's 35 institutions of higher education, had to ask one of its own
members to stop selling a wine labeled with a likeness of the
University of Georgia Arch and the words "University of Georgia" and
"UGA Alumni Association."

So why shouldn't NORML get the same sort of high-pressure treatment
from university officials?

Could it be that the university is less interested in any alleged
trademark infringement than in threatening, and possibly silencing, a
relatively new student group - according to its Web site, Georgia
NORML became active just last year - with a controversial message and

According to the Web site, NORML "represent(s) the interests of ...
Americans who smoke marijuana responsibly and believe the recreational
and medicinal use of marijuana should no longer be a crime. ... NORML
strongly supports the right of patients to use marijuana as a medicine
when their physician recommends it to relieve pain and suffering."

The logo in question, which had been emblazoned on T-shirts and used
on the Georgia NORML Web site, is best described as a crude drawing of
a bulldog sitting in front of an arch - festooned with marijuana
leaves and adorned with a banner reading "Legalize, Equalize,
Normalize" - holding a joint and reading a book titled "Human Rights."
The cartoon bulldog bears absolutely no resemblance to the well-known
UGA bulldog logo. At a student judiciary hearing earlier this week,
the person who drew the NORML logo said he'd "used a Looney Tunes
version" of a bulldog as a model, according to The Red & Black, UGA's
independent student newspaper.

In addition, the university initially appeared ambivalent about the
logo. Last fall, when the logo first appeared, UGA administrators
asked the group to take it off its Web site, and to turn over the
T-shirts being sold as a fundraising project. Subsequently, however,
the university reversed its position, according to chapter president
Wojciech Kaczkowski, who further told this newspaper for a March 26
story that in February, the university once again reversed course and
told the group it couldn't use the drawing.

Admittedly, it appears the NORML chapter didn't have what the
university says is a required approval to use the school's trademarks.
But, again, no one could confuse the NORML logo with any official UGA
trademark. And unless the university is willing to engage in a
vigorous legal effort to assert its claim that NORML has infringed on
a UGA trademark, it is unfortunately easy to conclude the school is
doing nothing more than harassing the group for the sake of harassing

Originally published in the Athens Banner-Herald on Friday, April 10,
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