By Clark Palmer
Michael Drucker has been working on trademark licensing issues at the Collegiate Licensing Company for 15 years. He’s been vice president and associate general counsel at the CLC for the past five years.
Drucker coordinates the CLC’s trademark enforcement program, serving as a liaison between the CLC and the law enforcement community on these issues. He also helps with contracts the CLC enters into with schools, manufacturers, promotional partners, and others. Plus, he counsels CLC staff and outside clients on trademark licensing legal issues.
In an exclusive interview with Sports Litigation Alert, Drucker shares his insights on intellectual property and other issues.
Question: What should institutions do to protect their marks?
Answer: Schools that have good licensing programs first and foremost have protected their marks by registering them with their state or federally and we recommend federal registrations for the core marks that schools have…Another thing schools have to do is have processes in place to handle infringements…and licensed manufacturers who aren’t complying with their licensing agreements. [Schools should] audit their licensees to make sure that they’re doing what they’re required to do…One of the things that we harp on is having the appropriate people at the institution connected with licensing in a way that when there’s an issue you don’t have to educate that person on what licensing is. So from a legal perspective what we see a lot of schools doing today is kind of having a three-headed, or four-headed approach to this where you have the licensing office at the school, you involve CLC from a legal perspective, you involve in-house counsel from a legal perspective, and a lot schools even have outside legal counsels [involved]…
Question: What advice do you have for institutions on protecting their trademarks on game day?
Answer: [They should] develop relationships with the law enforcement people on campus. You need to have them buy into what you’re doing because on game day, if the stadium is on campus, they have lots of things to do to keep the campus safe…If your stadium is off campus it’s important to have relationships with the law enforcement officials in that jurisdiction that can help you with that issue…I also think it’s important to have the protocol established with law enforcement as to what actions can and can’t be taken if and when you find someone selling unlicensed merchandise…And then the last thing is to be able to properly publicize your efforts so that infringers know that you’re out there and that you’re handling the issues and you don’t want them to come…
Question: Does winning a national championship, like the University of Florida did in January, present any new challenges with trademark licensing?
Answer: It’s more an opportunity than an issue…they need to be prepared to take advantage of that opportunity from a business perspective and that’s something that CLC works very closely with schools in a position like Florida’s on…Florida needs to be concerned, as does the CLC or any school that is successful athletically, and prepared to handle all the infringements that happen because of the demand…being prepared with law enforcement not only in Miami, for the national championship game, but also around the state of Florida after the game and where Florida fans live…
Question: Is it a challenge to ensure that manufacturers comply with institutions’ labor codes?
Answer: We’ve gone so far as to recently announce the hiring of a VP of corporate responsibility at the CLC that will be completely focused on this issue for the schools that we represent…In 10 years I think a lot of infrastructure has been built to help the schools manage this area…Many schools have adopted labor code standards that they require their licensees to comply with. Most schools require their licensees to disclose the factories that they use both in the U.S. and overseas so that they’re a known entity so they know where they’re located and they can monitor them. And a lot of schools have joined organizations like the Fair Labor Association and the Worker Rights Consortium to help tie the circle together. Because you might have labor code requirements and disclosure requirements, but if you can’t and you’re not monitoring those factories then you’re not really doing anything.