INDIANA — Ball State University has threatened a formerstudent with legal action for using the university’s logo on hisWeb site.
In a letter dated April 18, attorneys for Ball State askedalumnus Michael Mullen to halt operation of his Web site, BSUpolice.com,which uses the university’s official logo. The letter allegesthat the use of the logo and the domain name itself violate theschool’s trademark, since both items are "likely to confusethe public that [BSUpolice.com] is affiliated with or sponsoredby Ball State University."
The site publishes "public documents of interest regardingthe public officials and public acts of the Ball State UniversityPolice Department to the local community" and mostly chroniclesMullen’s attempts to obtain those documents from the university.A disclaimer stating that the site is not affiliated with theschool can be seen at the top of the introductory page.
Ironically, the university’s own Web site contains a page thatencourages users to download the school’s logo, which depictsa statue called "Beneficence" located on the Munciecampus.
Since receiving the letter, Mullen has obscured the logo witha black box and created a new introductory page on which the logodoes not appear in any form. The initial page now includes a photoof a badge that Ball State police officers wear on their clothing.
"If you allow other people to use your trademark withoutconsent, you run the risk of losing your rights to it," universityattorney John Moll said. "Apparently, [Mullen] removed the’Beneficence’ logo from his Web site so I think we’ve accomplishedwhat we set out to do."
Mullen said he thinks the university’s motivations were ofa different ilk.
"I’m not trying to trick people into believing that mysite is, in fact, the [official site of the Ball State UniversityPolice Department]," Mullen said via e-mail. "The siteis simply one man expressing his thoughts and for the universityto try to shut me up is, in my opinion, a violation of the FirstAmendment."
"It doesn’t have anything to do with that," counteredMoll. "As far as I know, he has everything on his Web site[now] that he did have [before] and more, and the only thing thatthe doesn’t have is the ‘Beneficence’ logo and that’s what werequested that he remove."
"This is simply a trademark matter and I think for whateverreason some people have tried to make it into a free speech orpublic disclosure issue and it’s not," he added.
Now that Mullen has removed the logo, Moll said the universitydoes not plan to pursue legal action against him for use of thedomain name.
"Our concern about the domain name was in conjunctionwith the ‘Beneficence’ logo," he said. "It would bea difficult case [to pursue action against Mullen] because thename BSUpolice, without the logo, doesn’t necessarily identify[the site] with the university."
View the “Beneficence” logo, courtesy of Ball State University.