- Associated Press - Monday, October 31, 2016

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show that Michigan State University sent 10 cease and desist letters to businesses and individuals between March and September.

The letters are part of the university’s efforts to protect its 30 trademarks registered with federal and state agencies, including its mascot’s image, its signature block S and the phrase “Go Green, Go White,” the Lansing State Journal (https://on.lsj.com/2fwZI3O ) reported

The university’s licensing office also sent more than 1,300 takedown requests last year for material that infringed on its trademarks on Facebook.

Dan Kelly, one of those who received a cease and desist letter from the university, displayed an image of the Spartan helmet and wore a shirt bearing the same logo on the social media page for his MSU Board of Trustees campaign. Since receiving notice of the letter he has taken down all of the university’s logos from his page.

The office’s director, Samantha Stevens, said the university didn’t take issue to Kelly’s shirt, but rather the use of the logos, which she said created the appearance that Kelly was endorsed by the university.

Stevens said the university increased its efforts to protect its trademarks a few years ago, mirroring a nationwide trend among public universities. She said the university risks losing their protected status if they don’t fight to preserve its trademarks.

A University of Michigan law professor Rebecca Eisenberg, who specializes in patent law said universities give a more ardent defense of their trademarks and rely on shaky legal justifications.

“MSU shouldn’t be able to control political speech,” she said. “For them to use trademark rights to enjoin expressive material is ridiculous.”

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Information from: Lansing State Journal, https://www.lansingstatejournal.com

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