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Strong's hiring sets off licensing fight

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The University of Texas is cracking down on a growing volume of clothing and other gear emblazoned with the name of new football coach Charlie Strong, according to a published report.

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The push is an effort to secure trademark rights on some Strong-related themes and phrasing, the Austin American-Statesman reported (http://bit.ly/1cpilcp). Representatives of the athletics department are targeting entrepreneurs who have been selling items displaying Strong's name or likeness.

Shirts and gear using the words ''Stronghorns,'' ''Texas Strong'' and ''UT Strong'' showed up for sale both online and in some stores, but those items were pulled after merchants were contacted by UT athletics.

The UT System has already moved to trademark ''Stronghorns,'' according to records with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The application was filed Jan. 7, two days after UT announced Strong's hiring.

''We like `Stronghorns' because it plays off us having a really strong, forceful team,'' said Craig Westemeier, a UT assistant athletics director who handles licensing issues. ''That includes everyone, not just coach.''

UT has already sent one cease-and-desist letter and Westemeier said he expects at least one more to be sent.

Any UT-branded merchandise sold by official licensees, such as Nike, must first be approved by the university, Westemeier said. That would include Strong memorabilia.

The university has a lot on the line when it comes to merchandising. The 2013 UT athletics report showed $9 million in net revenue from trademark licensing, the American-Statesman reported. Among colleges, it ranked No. 1 in the nation in 2012, the most recent figures available, according to the College Licensing Co. It was the eighth consecutive year that UT topped the list.

On apparel and non-apparel items, the university typically gets a royalty rate of 12 percent, Westemeier said. As is usually the case, Strong wouldn't get any of that cash, he said.

''We're really trying to protect coach and our mark,'' Westemeier said, ''but we're trying to manage this in the right way and not be overbearing.''

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Information from: Austin American-Statesman, http://www.statesman.com

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2014
The Associated Press
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