WVU, t-shirt maker settle case

by Chris Dickerson |
Apr. 11, 2012, 2:14am

MORGANTOWN -- West Virginia University and a Morgantown t-shirt company have agreed to settle the university's case challenging the company's use of certain trademarks.

WVU alleged MivaMan LLC/Fastees.com intentionally had infringed on a variety of WVU marks by mimicking uniforms of the athletic teams, WVU's official colors and WVU's official typeface on more than 15 offensive items.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Frederick Stamp entered an order jointly prepared by WVU and Mivaman formally ending the case. In the order, MivaMan agreed to stop producing certain items which WVU believed to be infringing or dilutive of WVU's trademarks and also agreed to take other actions designed to avoid trademark issues in the future.

In exchange, WVU agreed not to pursue its complaint. No monetary damages were awarded.

In February, Stamp had granted WVU's motion for a temporary restraining order against MivaMan. Then, Stamp wrote that the defendants' conduct "has likely been intentional and profit-driven, proximately resulting in irreparable damages to the plaintiff's licensed products, reputation and goodwill as a public institution."

WVU sued MivaMan, JFord Inc. and owner Kevin Ford for trademark infringement, trademark dilution, cyberpiracy and unfair competition under the Federal Trademark Act of 1946, trademark and anti-dilution laws in West Virginia and unfair competition laws in the state.

In particular, the university accused Ford of producing and selling shirts, coolers and temporary tattoos that are strikingly similar to some of WVU's most popular phrases and cheers, and that use the university's trademarked logos, colors and fonts.

WVU filed its motion for a temporary restraining order and/or a preliminary injunction on Feb. 9. The same day, Ford filed a motion asking the court to grant MivaMan more time to find a lawyer and prepare for opposition to WVU's motion.

Corporate defendants cannot, under established law, appear without counsel.

Some of Ford's t-shirts had the following phrases and images:

* West F***** Virginia;

* Best F***** Virginia;

* I Only Flash West Virginia Fans;

* Blood Sweat and Eers;

* I Only Sleep with West Virginia Fans;

* The Incredible Eers;

* Very Wasted (using a variation of the Flying WV logo);

* West Virginia (with a middle finger interposed between the "West" and "Virginia");

* West Virginia Girls Do It In the Mud; and

* Don't Curse/West F***** Virginia.

In an interview with The West Virginia Record, Ford called the whole situation "ridiculous."

"We put 'West By God Virginia' on a T-shirt and they seem to think that's infringing on their standards," he said. "They don't have a trademark on the words 'West Virginia.' They can't trademark a geographic location."

Ford had told The Record he hoped the judge would see that WVU's case was without merit.

"I can't even walk into court and plead my case without an attorney. They won't let me," he said. "And here I am holding a $3,000-plus bill from my attorney to work on a settlement that we couldn't reach.

"It was just ridiculous. We only have a couple of designs in my whole store with 'West Virginia' on it. It's a very small percentage of what we're trying to sell here.

"There's not one person I've met, talked to -- on the Internet or phone, attorneys and lawyers -- all of them have said (WVU) can't get away with this."

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