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Chrysler Lawyers Order Takedown Of Florida High School Logo

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Lake Mary High School logo vs. Dodge Ram logo

Lake Mary High School logo vs. Dodge Ram logo

Grille - 2010 Dodge Ram 1500 2WD Reg Cab 120.5

Grille - 2010 Dodge Ram 1500 2WD Reg Cab 120.5

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When lawyers come a-calling, the news is never good. Folks at Florida's Lake Mary High School learned that lesson the hard way when Chrysler's legal team contacted them back in January. The pinstripers insisted that Lake Mary had copied Chrysler's trademarked Ram image and used it as the high school's ram logo. Chrysler ordered the school to stop using the purloined logo by June of 2010.

As always, there are three sides to every argument.

The argument that's been made most often in the media comes down in favor of the high school. "Doesn't Chrysler have better things to do?", the reasoning goes. "Why don't they focus on polishing up their brand and making decent cars? If they'd done that before, maybe the federal government wouldn't have had to bail them out." In other words, Chrysler should spend its limited resources on things that truly matter -- namely, rebuilding itself.

There is, however, a less popular argument to be made -- one that's critical of the designer who revamped Lake Mary's logo a few years ago by flat-out copying the iconic Dodge Ram rather than drafting a bighorn from scratch. That's not just lazy design work, it also demonstrates a stunning ignorance of basic copyright law. And as everyone remembers from Business Law 101 or NYPD Blue or our parents: ignorance of the law is no excuse. In short, Lake Mary's graphic designer has every right to be called to the mat, as do the high school administrators who approved the logo's use.

The third argument lies somewhere in-between. Yes, Lake Mary High School was wrong to steal the Dodge Ram logo ("steal" being an appropriate word to use in this situation). And yes, Chrysler has every reason to order the high school to cease and desist using its trademarked image. However, given Chrysler's abysmal sales stats and its severely tarnished public image (thanks to the bailout, not to mention some very iffy auto quality), the company would've been much better off letting this one slide -- or at least, handling it in a much quieter way. We've reserved judgment on marketing honcho Olivier Francois and his controversial re-branding campaigns, but this incident makes us think that Chrysler might need to shake up its PR team.

To Lake Mary's credit, the high school has admitted copying the Dodge Ram logo, and it has agreed to remove all such imagery from campus by June 15. To Chrysler's credit, it has agreed to pay for the creation of a new logo for Lake Mary High School -- hopefully, a logo crafted by a designer who actually designs. Still, it appears that the school will be responsible for the removal of the ram logo from the gym floor, park benches, and other surfaces, which will add unnecessary expense to the school's annual budget. And the entire incident has soured many Lake Mary students, parents, and supporters against Chrysler -- possibly for good.

Sadly, this seems to be a lose-lose for both Ram teams.

[Autoblog]

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Comments (18)
  1. I am not sure they are allowed to let it slide, I think trademark law requires that the owner protects its trademarks. But I agree about possibility of handling it quietly.
     
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  2. Overall I'm going to have to side with Chrysler. That's a blatant copy. It's frankly nice of Chrysler to help pay for a new logo. There's probably some legal reason they had to order the school to cease using it.
     
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  3. @Mis Tigi -- You're correct: if owners don't protect their trademarks, those marks become "genericized" and the owner loses exclusive rights to them. "Aspirin", "e-mail", "yo-yo", and even "heroin" are great examples of products that were once trademarked, but fell into public domain. (If you're interested, there's a nice list here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_generic_and_genericized_trademarks)
    _
    That said, I think Chrysler probably could've handled this without pissing off so many people. Although their job would've been made much easier if the school's logo designer had bothered to create something original -- or if Lake Mary's administration had put the kabosh on the redesign years ago.
     
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  4. This is not how you win friends when you are broke and on the government take.
     
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  5. If the geniuses at Lake Mary High had any guts they'd replace their Dodge logo with a Honda logo. Maybe they can get away with ripping off a foreign car companies' emblem.
     
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  6. what a shame- if bankruptcy does not help this arrogant organization , nothing will. If i was the US government i would work on getting my money from FIAT ASAP
     
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  7. I agree with Richard's take. But I'm also wondering what the thinking was with installing this logo knowing everyone would ask, "Uh, doesn't the new high school logo look *really* familiar?"
     
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  8. Slow news day?
     
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  9. They could have handled it better. Why not offer to redesign their logo for them (something that would take someone in Chrysler's marketing art department about three minutes) and turn it into a PR win?
    Because they're idiots, that's why. ;)
     
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  10. First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers ... honestly, this just makes my blood boil.
    There is *NO* chance of confusion between a high-school sports team and a very large truck. What, like someone's gonna be confused & wander into the high school and insist they sell him a pickup trucks? PUH-leeze. Legal BS.
     
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  11. "Why don't they focus on polishing up their brand and making decent cars?" Chrysler made the first step in that regard when they hired Nissan's Doug Betts as their quality expert in 2007 ... the only smart thing Cerberus Capital Management ever thought of. It will be up to Fiat to polish Chrysler's brands, however, but given enough time, Chrysler will start making decent cars. Personally, I always liked their LX models, Viper and Challenger, but improvements wouldn't hurt. For my money, the school should have come up with an original design in the first place. Companies can be very protective of their brands.
     
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  12. Chrysler Statement: Chrysler Group and the school district reached an amicable resolution of this issue in February.The company has dealt with the school reasonably and with respect for its students.Our dealer has agreed to pay for the design of a new logo for the school,and Chrysler Group has agreed to a longer transition period for the school to complete more involved removals.We remain open to dialogue with the school community on further ways Chrysler Group can help to mitigate the impact of this transition period.Brands and the trademarks that represent them are among the most valuable assets companies own.
     
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  13. @Hypocritical Lang - Confusion isn't the problem ... the problem is that, to the best of anyone's knowledge, the Ram logo is a copyrighted trademark. Unless the school was licensed to use that trademark, they didn't have permission to use it.
     
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  14. I think that Chrysler has handled this just fine. It's big news here in the Orlando Metro area. The schools "designer" stole a trademarked design, case closed. Any court would side with Chrysler! They are being more than fair with helping to design a new logo for the school....
     
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  15. @Auto Movers: Thanks for the insight. I think the underlying problem is that Chrysler's legal arm and its marketing department seem to be working independently of one another. As "amicable" as the resolution may have been -- as as justified as Chrysler was in ordering Lake Mary to cease and desist -- if Chrysler lawyers and PR staffers had sat down together and strategized at the outset, the problem might have been resolved much quicker and more quietly.
     
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  16. This in 2010? Stealing a logo is absolutly wrong but lets try to help rather that hurt the school. The heart of this matter should ultimately be the kids. The kids and their parents might never buy a Chrysler product again. They will tell the story for the rest of their lives to anyone when automobiles become the conversation. Chrysler should consider this positive senario. What if they think of the school using their logo as free advertising, and try to spin the story in their favor. This would allow Chrysler look great to prospective buyers and the South Forida community. Chrysler needs to open their minds to put a positive spin on this story!
     
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  17. If Chrysler had reached an agreement whereby the school acknowledged that the logo was "TM" by Chrysler, but the automaker let the school keep using it for awhile (several years), making it a legal licensing agreement with some promo's with the local dealer... still would protect the trademark (in fact putting legal requirements for school use) but keep everyone happy. The lawyers don't appreciate that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery"... if the RAM logo wasn't cool, the school wouldn't have 'stolen' it.
     
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  18. Im going to have to side with dodge on this one i mean they were going out of the car macking buisnuiss and well it just was not right for thos guys to be taking their logo THEY LOOK EXACTLY ALIKE
     
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