While it may seem like a great idea to sell products affixed with college or university logos, and they might sell like hotcakes, chances are this would be illegal without licenses from the schools you plan to promote.
If you close your eyes right now, you can probably picture the logo of the college you attended or your favorite college sports team. That's because colleges and universities do a great job of marketing their brands. They want you to see their logo and know exactly what school it is.
At the same time, they don't want their logos to be overused, or used without their permission. That's where trademark and copyright issues come into play.
School logos, mascots, taglines, and other branding devices are often intellectual property and protected by trademarks and copyrights, which protect the school's brand.
Trademark infringement occurs when a business or individual uses a mark, such as a logo, that has been trademarked by an entity, or is so similar that it causes confusion to the general public.
Copyrights are similar to trademarks, but they apply to creative intellectual property. So, copyright infringement could occur when artwork for the design of a logo or mascot, protected by copyright, is used without permission from the copyright holder.
Schools have various reasons for wanting to protect their trademarks, and the most common are:
Colleges and universities are often successful using claims of copyright infringement when businesses or individuals have reproduced the artwork for the design of a logo or mascot without a proper license. Typically, the school must only show that the business or individual had access to the original, copyrighted work and sold or distributed products "substantially similar" to the original.
Oftentimes, colleges and universities are willing to sell licenses to businesses and individuals wanting to sell things containing the school's logo, slogan, or mascot. Work with an intellectual property attorney in your area to see if you can legally produce and sell the products you have in mind.