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'SC' Trademark Dispute: SC Belongs to Southern Cal

By Laura Strachan, Esq. on October 06, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Fight on. Although the University of Southern California may not be having the winning football season they have enjoyed in past years, there is one place they are putting up a victory -- at the Supreme Court. In the battle of the USCs, pitting the Southern California school against the University of South Carolina, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld (by denying to hear the case) the SC trademark dispute concerning the school's logo in favor of the Trojans.

The case, which has been going on since 1997, concerned whether the interlocking "SC" letters used by both teams was trademarked by the University of Southern California. The general inquiry in any trademark dispute is whether there is a likelihood of confusion in allowing both to use the same or similar trademarked item.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the ruling of a Special Trademark Trial will stand, which essentially held that although "real fans" might not be confused by the dueling logos, casual fans would and the potential loss in revenue was enough to defeat the east coast SC. The argument presented by University of South Carolina rested on two notions -- the school asserted that common letters cannot be trademarked by one seller, and that one school used stylized, curved letters, while the other used block letters in their logos.

The Los Angeles Times quotes Los Angeles attorney for the Trojans, Michael Adler: "We are pleased the Supreme Court did the right thing and ended this after 13 years. We'd rather beat them on the football field than fight them in litigation, but if they won this, they could have used this logo on any merchandise. We have always been SC and we were there first." Sports merchandise is a $3 billion per year business. The battle of the SCs was just one of the hundreds of cases the Supreme Court declined to take up on its opening day.

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