The Salem High Seminoles become fighting words (and images).

seminoleA graduate of Salem High School sent me this story about Florida State University’s complaints about the Rockdale County school’s use of “Seminole” in their sports program, and the school board’s decision to comply with the university’s demands to avoid a costly lawsuit.

The “official” home of the Seminoles, FSU said Salem High’s and Memorial Middle’s use of the word “Seminole” and their corresponding logos was a violation of  its trademark rights.

The reader said: “While I know this isn’t as intriguing as cheating scandals and corrupt school boards, as a Salem High alumni and public school teacher, I find this to be appalling. What a ridiculous thing to do to a school any time, but certainly in a budget crisis. Shame on FSU.”

Here is part of the story from the Rockdale Citizen. Take a look at the entire story:

Rockdale County Public Schools will have to replace athletic and band apparel, wall and floor paintings and school stationery at Salem High School and Memorial Middle School after a settlement with Florida State University for alleged violation of trademark rights.

In August, the Collegiate Licensing Company contacted Salem High School on behalf of the University to express its concern of the school’s use of the word “Seminole” and the school’s Seminole head and spear logo.

“I find it appalling that a university would go after a school system for this, especially in these economic times, when we can’t stand up and fight,” school board member Darlene Hotchkiss said. “If we had the money, there’s part of me that would fight this to the end.”

Salem High School opened in 1991 and Memorial Middle School opened in 1993, and they have used the same wording and the same or similar logos since opening. Originally, SHS used a different logo and at some point over the years switched to the current logo with an Indian head and spear, according to Cindy Ball, director of Community Relations at RCPS.

The Rockdale County Board of Education approved a settlement and license agreement with FSU after executive session at its monthly school board meeting on Thursday. Hotchkiss and Vice Chairwoman Jean Yontz voted against the agreement.

“I cannot believe FSU thinks Salem High School is a threat to them monetarily,” Yontz said Friday. “What about all of the other high schools in America?”

School board Chairman Wales Barksdale said spending money on further litigation wouldn’t be beneficial to the school system. “It’s their marks, and they have them,” he said. “I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I don’t see spending the money for it. … We worked out an agreement where we have time to change things.”

According to the agreement, which school board attorney Jack Lance has reviewed, Salem High and Memorial Middle must discontinue their existing use of the Seminole head design mark, the lady Seminole head design mark, the spear design mark and the words “Seminoles” and “Noles” unless it is with the school’s name.

Salem has 30 days to remove the items from its website and publications. It has until Aug. 1, 2011, to remove them from the football helmets; until Aug. 1, 2016, to remove them from the campus walls and floors and from all athletic uniforms; until Aug. 1, 2019 to remove them from all band uniforms; and until Aug. 1, 2012, to remove them from baseball caps. They can use their stationery until it’s exhausted.

At Memorial Middle School, it only has to remove the items from its website and publications within 30 days and from its school crest by Aug. 1, 2014. It, too, can use stationery with the items until its exhausted.

Ball said if RCPS had to make all of the requested changes within 30 days, it would have cost an estimated $50,000. However, Lance worked it out for the agreement to be nominal costs to the school system over a period of time — decals on the helmets will be replaced when they are refurbished each summer and varsity sports uniforms are replaced every three years.

Lance said it could cost RCPS about $250,000 to defend a federal lawsuit.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

94 comments Add your comment

WE lost our way

March 19th, 2011
10:56 am

Silly yes! However UGA had to get trademark rights from Green Bay Packers to use the big G on all University logos and sport uniforms back in the 60,s.


March 19th, 2011
11:09 am

I agree I hate the fact colleges are doing this, but that’s about of life, protect what is your’s. Colleges sent the word out YEARS ago about high schools using their logos and they would be pursuing legal action. I remember seeing a special on ESPN a long time ago about it. So this didn’t just happen, Salem had the opportunity like everybody else to change on their own before FSU would come in, but they decided to wait and hope to slip through the cracks.


March 19th, 2011
11:17 am

I believe that companies/organizations can lose a trademark if they don’t defend it. Legally, they have to stop anyone else (even, say, a 6yo girls’ soccer team) from copying it, or a judge could later say that “Seminoles” and the logo are in the public domain because FSU didn’t take measures to stop others from copying it.

That said… yeah, this stinks for Salem High. I wish both parties could’ve negotiated something instead of a very costly cease-and-desist, especially given how this is the last thing Rockdale County can afford right now.

Henry D.

March 19th, 2011
11:21 am

Funny after Salem using the logo for all these years, FSU makes an issue of it as soon as Bobby Bowdern retires. I can’t believe FSU really thinks this will cost them any money or misunderstandings for them.

Charlie S.

March 19th, 2011
11:27 am

By the way, has any of the real Seminoles that were kicked out of Florida and southern Georgia contacted Florida State about improper use of their images or name? I don’t they were ever really truly paid.


March 19th, 2011
11:34 am

This is absolutely ridiculous. Sure, I can understand any professional team protecting their trademark rights from a university, but a university protecting those rights vs. a high school and middle school is preposterous. First, the university should be elated that a high school would emulate the university’s logo. That is like FREE advertising for that university. Secondly, a local school district has little if any national draw when it comes to the sale of promotional items that would use the university’s logo.

Inside the Georgia Dome there is a wall of helmets representing every high school in the state of Georgia. Other high schools have not only copied FSU’s logo, but quite a few other university logos. Will the other universities bring legal action against those high schools?


March 19th, 2011
11:56 am

They had time to comply; they didn’t. FSU is being quite generous in allowing them to phase it in so gradually.

And, yes, Charlie B, a few years ago when there was a federal move to take the Seminole name away because it was “degrading,” THE SEMINOLE TRIBE officially came out in favor of FSU retaining the name!

Charlie S.

March 19th, 2011
11:58 am

Who the hell is Charlie B?

Charlie S.

March 19th, 2011
11:58 am

Sorry, meant to say “heck.” LOL


March 19th, 2011
12:07 pm

College sports has become big business with hundreds of millions (billions?) of dollars exchanging hands each year. They turn a blind eye to alleged player payola and academic shenanigans but let a high school team copy a logo and wham!, they’re all over that.

Why does FSU care about a lowly high school team using its insignia? Because there are millions of dollars at stake in the sale of merchandise with the Seminole logo.

It’s all about the money.

Outside the Perimeter

March 19th, 2011
12:33 pm

What I would dearly love to see is the Seminole Nation filing a federal lawsuit against the Florida State College for Women! Never heard of that school? that was the original name for FSU!


March 19th, 2011
12:39 pm

Sorry, Charlie. B, S, whatever.

OTP: My mom and all her sisters were graduates of FlaStaCoWa. It was not called “the Seminoles” at that point.


March 19th, 2011
12:45 pm

To add to comments made by others, Charlie S., not only does the tribal chief approve of the use of the Seminole name, the tribe overwhelmingly voted in favor of the use. They are generously paid in the millions as well, as part of the agreement to share the profits from licensing. It’s a win-win for both sides down there.

someone please quantify the loss to FSU

March 19th, 2011
12:49 pm

i’m struggling with how this high school’s use of Seminole as a mascot damages FSU. There are many high schools that have bulldog as a mascot – yet somehow UGA managed to make $80M last year on football alone, and sold boatloads of merchandise.

FSU may have the “right” to do this, but it smacks of greed. May whoever FSU plays next win!


March 19th, 2011
12:56 pm

Hey, OTP, you might want to study up before you make idiotic comments like that. The Seminole Tribe of Florida works very closely with FSU, and actually fought for the university to continue using the Seminole name. The tribe even designs many of the costumes used by the school. Why would it matter to you if they sue anyone?

Also, I’m not sure what point you were trying to make regarding the university’s previous name, which by the way WASN’T the original name. It was originally West Florida Seminary, and didn’t become FSCW until many years later. So basically, your statement was wrong on all counts!

Teacher's Husband

March 19th, 2011
1:09 pm

Anyone that is against FSU taking action in the case has never built a company/trademark/brand of their own. FSU is clearly in the right on this one, no matter whose feelings it hurts.

Teacher's Husband

March 19th, 2011
1:11 pm

OTP you are an idiot. Plain and simple. The Seminole tribe has given FSU its full blessing.

not a Bobby Bowden fan

March 19th, 2011
1:13 pm

So, does this mean that any high school athletic program that has the same mascot/logo as a college or pro team is at risk? Off the bat that would hit most of the HS teams in my county – Lions, Wildcats, Eagles, Panthers, Hawks, Blue Devils, the list goes on. If that’s what it means this could get ugly, and expensive.

Teacher's Husband

March 19th, 2011
1:19 pm

@not a Bobby Bowden fan

Yes. I am a Clemson Alumnus and I see high schools using the TRADEMARKED Clemson tiger paw all over the country. Most schools are doing a disservice to the logo by using it for wildcats, panthers, dogs, and whatever other silly mascot they can come up with. The trademarked Clemson tigers paw is actually an imprint from a REAL Bengal tiger. Makes people look pretty stupid using the logo for other animals and its damaging to the brand that Clemson tried to create.

Anyway. Clemson trademarked the paw for a reason. It’s the same as Coca-Cola trade marking their script logo. It’s to protect the company and the brand they have built. It’s no different for a university that invests millions into creating a financially viable brand.

There are a lot of schools that will just pay the licensing fee rather than risk the lawsuit. If they don’t then they really deserve what is coming.


March 19th, 2011
2:01 pm

This is just another reason to hate Free Shoes University.

South Georgia Administrator

March 19th, 2011
2:11 pm

What are the chances of Salem’s high school guidance counselors suggesting to a senior to consider FSU! Salem pick a better mascot…like the “Gators”…. and I’m a Dawgs fan!

Stumpy Pete

March 19th, 2011
2:19 pm

FSU has a great relationship with the Seminole nation who make millions from this logo. Shame on RCPS for not checking if they were violating any trademarks with their logos. Trademarks have to be protected at all costs or the owner can lose them. I am sure if RCPS had checked they could’ve used something similar with no cost. FSU is not at fault here.

Rockdale Resident

March 19th, 2011
2:25 pm

I wonder if the other two schools in the county will have to change? Heritage High uses the Patriots of New England fame, and Rockdale County High uses the Bulldog. I understand the copyright issue, but it seems that it should be fairly enforced, not just picking and choosing.


March 19th, 2011
2:31 pm

Creekside in Fairburn, Ga is the Seminoles too. Why have they not been sued by FSU?


March 19th, 2011
2:33 pm

Pansy world we live in now. I am tough enough to do and say what I want to. On purpose I hope I do not rub folks wrong but if I do, so dang what. The reason we have open pansies now is, do I hurt your tender sissy feeling?


March 19th, 2011
2:44 pm

Tigers and bulldogs in every county all over the place..but in many cases the mascot and logo look somewhat different….


March 19th, 2011
3:05 pm

Where football helmets with no logo,

Like Penn State.

Heat of the night

March 19th, 2011
3:10 pm

Request Nike to donate new uniforms to Salem High.


March 19th, 2011
3:12 pm

My understanding is that professional teams allow k-12 to use their logos and names at no charge. That is not true of colleges. Even the rec leagues cannot use college names and mascots unless they are part of the license agreement. [sigh] It is all about the money.


March 19th, 2011
3:30 pm

Fred, for most schools it’s really more about trademark and licensing protection than money. There are numerous public schools that use Tech’s familiar “Buzz” logo and have signed agreements with Tech to do so. Tech charges a school $1….yes, $1….for the use. They have to charge the token fee in order to legally protect the trademark against unlicensed commercial use.

Richard Braswell

March 19th, 2011
3:47 pm

Seminole County, Georgia…home of the SCHS Indians. I guess Seminole County High School is grandfathered. FSU could make a case for ownership of ‘thug’, based on the antics of the football players.


March 19th, 2011
3:51 pm

I like Georgia Tech’s approach to the issue. Why couldn’t FSU simply charge Salem High School $1? Instead they have to penalize a high school. Shame on FSU.

Incidentally, Florida has filed complaints against a couple of schools in Florida for using their logo and Gator name.


March 19th, 2011
3:59 pm

Nothing wrong with using “Seminoles”, but shouldn’t use the Logo. Gotta go with the University on that one.


March 19th, 2011
4:05 pm

Only an idiotic FSU graduate would think this little HS would be any threat. Especially a college that cannot get 20,000 fans to attend their football games.


March 19th, 2011
4:06 pm

I’m surprised that no one has mentioned the fact that FSU is sanctioned by the Seminole nation to use their tribe as a mascot. It’s been written about ad nauseum.

Shame on Salem for not doing their homework and assuming that the logo could be adopted without any due deference to the Seminole nation or Florida State Univ. Doing so would be carelessly piggybacking on the history and honor of the tribe that FSU has tried so hard to honor. This is the administrator’s fault.


March 19th, 2011
4:09 pm

Yes, FSU is 100% in the right. They do have an agreement with the Seminole Nation to use the name (and I believe that FSU DOES NOT pay them to use the name). That is unlike the situation at U of N. Dakota. This is the last year that the team can be called the Fighting Sioux, because the Sioux tribe does not want them to use the name.

citizen from the area

March 19th, 2011
4:57 pm

The actual decision was that Salem can keep the “Seminole” as their mascot but they have to deversify it from FSUs. They use to have a different image of the Seminole but they are now using the exact trademark of FSU. They also can’t just say “Seminole” they have to use the school name with it.


March 19th, 2011
5:06 pm

Here’s a story from ABC news from last year on ABC news. About Florida and Florida State.


March 19th, 2011
5:27 pm

Kingbyrd, FSU is not the only, nor the first, university to exercise their rights against a high school that is infringing on its trademark; off-hand Florida has also had a recent high-profile case agains a high school using their Gator logo. And ‘not a BB fan’, it’s not the mascot name by itself that is the problem; particularly in the case of those very generic mascot names, it’s the outright copying of the logos that are distinctive. As others have pointed out, there is a concept under trademark law known as trademark dilution and to help prevent that, trademark owners must actively protect their marks.
The simple fact is that at some point, the coaches and/or principal of the schools in question were negligent when they chose to illegally copy these trademarked logos.

Trolls R Us

March 19th, 2011
5:43 pm

Their new mascot should be the banana slugs.
That way they won’t get sued.
No wait, there is probably some nutty college in California that has that one too.

Trolls R Us

March 19th, 2011
5:49 pm

Here’s a way to raise money.
Have a contest to name the new mascot.
Each entree cost $5.
A group of finalists is chosen of names not taken nationwide.
Student vote decides winner or faculty if students would be too time consuming.
Winner should get something; maybe season tickets?

Mikey D

March 19th, 2011
6:07 pm

A few years ago, Chapel Hill High in Douglas County got a cease and desist order from Penn State. The high school’s panther logo inside an oval was too similar to PSU’s nittany lion logo, and PSU threatened legal action. So, this sort of thing isn’t new, although it is all pretty silly.


March 19th, 2011
6:12 pm

They’ll have to go after Westside (Macon) and several other schools, too. There are a lot of Georgia high school teams that call themselves Seminoles.


March 19th, 2011
6:34 pm

Oh, and will they sue every Braves fan for doing the Tomahawk Chop and the chant?
What stupidity! This is lawyers looking for work.

Bryan G.

March 19th, 2011
6:35 pm

How about change the school name to the “Salem Witches”?

Go Figure

March 19th, 2011
6:38 pm

I live just actoss the border from Tallahassee. I can tell you that there is not a lot of smarts on that campus. I worked with an FSU grad that did not have a clue. Not much respect here. In fact, I have not met an FSU grad that I would consider as having 2 functioning brain cells or anything better that the personality of a pile of horse flop.

It makes my blood boil

March 19th, 2011
6:40 pm

Like this is so important? I am surprised that the AJC is wearing its kid gloves as Ed It’s All About the Children Heatley is destroying what’s left of the Clayton County school system.

Seminole fan

March 19th, 2011
7:08 pm

This isn’t the first time FSU has approached a school for use of the Seminole logo. I went to Southeast High School in Bradenton, FL. Our logo looks just like FSU’s Seminole head, but our colors are orange and blue. Southeast HS had issues last fall, but it was resolved, and Southeast will remain the Seminoles. More info here and here


March 19th, 2011
7:35 pm

Here we go with the “…in these economic times…” bit. I can use that in almost any/every whining scenario and the weaklings will have sympathy for me.

No Kids!

March 19th, 2011
8:59 pm

They don’t have to buy band uniforms!!! Note the agreement gives them YEARS to change the band uniforms. You can bet the agreement was worked coincedentally with when the high school planned to replace existing uniforms. The athletic helmets must be done this year but baseball hats can be worn for the current season. Next year they order new hats anyway and they will simply buy new ones without the current logo. So exactly why is this news other than the fact we angered YOU because you loved your NOLES! LOL No real monetary damage except painting over the current logos over the next several years. $ damage…maybe $20. Buy a gallon of paint when its on sale and likely can be done for less than $15.