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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

October 8, 2004

Trademark licensing function to be contracted

by Anne Krapfl

Iowa State's trademark licensing program has been transferred from the ISU Research Foundation to the office of the vice president for business and finance. And, by the end of the semester, the university should have signed a contract with a firm that will coordinate the use of ISU trademarks and the sale of products bearing those images.

The change was the recommen-dation of a campus group, with representatives from units that are most involved in the use of the trademarks, that studied the issue this summer. President Gregory Geoffroy concurred with the recommendation.

The intent is to market Iowa State products more aggressively in what has become a billion-dollar industry.

"The goal is to streamline and speed up the administrative process and maximize revenues to the university by expanding the market," said Warren Madden, vice president for business and finance. "For the campus community, this transfer and reorganization should be fairly transparent. They'll still be contacting the same people."

ISURF executive director Kenneth Kirkland agrees that the change is a logical one.

"ISURF doesn't own the trademarks; the university does. So, obviously this wasn't one of the main things we do as managers of the university's intellectual property," he said. "We think this is a very good change."

How it works

The trademark licensing program grants permission to non-university and university groups to use the Iowa State name or logos. Companies pay royalties -- a percentage of their sales -- to ISU. At any time, Iowa State has about 20 marks registered with the federal government. Most interest is in Cyclone athletic logos, but the group of marks includes the university seal, campanile, "ISU" and the "IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY" nameplate.

Trademark and licensing companies will do as much or as little as a university wants, but some common services include:

  • Registering trademarks with the federal government in Washington, D.C.
  • Reviewing and approving products with the companies that make them.
  • Negotiating national and regional marketing packages with retailers, such as Wal-Mart or JC Penney.
  • Enforcing proper use of the trademarks and quality of products.
  • Pursuing "co-branded" products (for example, a university mark and the Reebok logo appearing on the same product).

Madden said he anticipates some kind of hybrid agreement with a company. For example, Iowa State will keep a campus trademark licensing advisory committee (members are ISU employees), with its membership restructured to focus on marketing. For the last dozen years or so, the group's primary task was to assess the quality and appropriateness of product proposals, including testing food products.

Spending royalties

Iowa State earns about $500,000 annually in trademark licensing royalties, according to Madden. In the past, the funds went to the athletic department and a special fund in the provost's office. Under the new system, the athletic department still will receive about the same --70 percent of the revenues. The other 30 percent will support university initiatives from a fund managed in Madden's office, with spending decisions made by the president.

Chief players

Trademark licensing staff members Leesha Zimmerman and Tiffany DeWitte have moved to 1350 Beardshear; their phone numbers remain the same. Associate vice president Johnny Pickett will oversee the program, though Zimmerman will be the university's primary contact with the trademark and licensing firm.

The two firms that market the majority of university merchandise in this country are The Collegiate Licensing Co., Atlanta, Ga., and Licensing Resource Group, with offices in Holland, Mich., and Coralville. Madden said a company's payment typically comes in a commission on the royalties a university earns for licensing its trademarks to vendors.

Iowa State's request for bids has gone out and proposals are due Oct. 14. A trademark and licensing company should be on board by the end of the semester.


Iowa State is in the process of hiring a firm to coordinate the use of ISU trademarks and the sale of products bearing those images. The intent is to market Iowa State products more aggressively in what has become a billion-dollar industry.