NASHVILLE, Tenn. ― That Lipscomb University sweatshirt or coffee mug with the interlocking “LU” logo has instantly become a limited-edition collector’s item.
Lipscomb officials are dropping the short-lived symbol after being pushed by Liberty University to stop using the marks. Both universities have used an interlocking L and U to promote their athletics departments.
Liberty, a Christian school in Virginia, federally registered the trademark a few years ago. That trademark covers the letters’ use in the context of higher education.
Several months ago, Liberty officials asked Lipscomb to stop using “LU” for marketing and commercial purposes.
David Corry, Liberty’s general counsel, said his university was open to a compromise that would have allowed Lipscomb to use the letters in some way, but Lipscomb officials decided to stop altogether.
“It was very cordial, and there was certainly no animus or ill feelings,” Corry said. Lipscomb’s vice president for communications, Deby Samuels, told The Tennessean the school started using the “LU” logo a few months ago.
“While it was one that we felt we had the right to use, when contacted by another school about the mark, we chose to simply return to using the word Lipscomb,” Samuels said.
Trademark law centers around the potential that customers would be confused, according to Nashville lawyer and Vanderbilt University Law School adjunct professor Rick Sanders. That Liberty and Lipscomb are both Christian universities in the same part of the country could heighten the risk that someone would confuse the two LUs.
University of Tennessee fans probably don’t need to worry about a similar challenge from the other UT, the University of Texas, Sanders said.
“At this stage, they’ve been living together so long that the public has learned to mentally distinguish them,” Sanders said.