Among the hundreds of cases that the Supreme Court refused to review last week was the trademark dispute between The University of South Carolina and The University of Southern California.  The dispute centered on the right that both schools claimed to use the letters “SC” on their sports merchandise. Since 1997, the Gamecocks have sought to register their own “SC” logo for the sale of sports merchandise.   The University of Southern California has apparently been using the “SC” logo for decades.

 

Federal trademark law forbids the use of identifying marks that are “likely to cause confusion” among consumers.   South Carolina’s “SC” logo had two stylized, curved letters that interlock.  This is in contrast to the blocked letters used by the California school.

It is estimated that the sale of sports merchandise with collegiate logos is a $3-billion-per-year business.  

In refusing to hear the dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed a special Trademark Trial and Appeal Board decision that had  concluded that although “real fans” would not be fooled, casual fans might be confused as to whether the sportswear came from the West Coast or the East Coast school.

We respect the Court’s decision, of course, though we question the existence of “casual fans”.