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USC Trojans defeat South Carolina's Gamecocks in trademark battle [Updated]

January 20, 2010 |  5:46 pm

Would a reasonable person confuse a USC logo on a garnet-and-black ball cap in Columbia, S.C., with the same letters on cardinal-and-gold sportswear worn by a Trojans fan at the Coliseum?

Apparently so, a federal appeals court has decided in rejecting a petition from the Palmetto State to use the letters on baseball team clothing for the University of South Carolina Fighting Gamecocks.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Tuesday upheld a decision last year by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office review board to recognize the University of Southern California's century-old claim to the logo letters.

Neil C. Jones, the Greenville, S.C., lawyer representing the University of South Carolina, couldn’t be reached immediately for comment on the court’s ruling.

[Updated 5:50 p.m.: Jones said school authorities hadn't yet decided whether to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on the trademark issue.]

Scott Edelman, an attorney representing the Los Angeles university, hailed the ruling as protection of the school's "primary athletic mark" used on team clothing and equipment that brings in significant revenue. Sports logo registrations are not limited to use in team colors, so there was potential for South Carolina merchandise to be mistaken for that of USC, Edelman said.

He also suggested that the letters were more deservedly linked to the Trojans' warrior image than to "a goofy little chicken."

"I think they wanted to move away from the gamecock logo," Edelman said of the school in the South. "Something that is totally understandable."

-- Carol J. Williams