May 022012
 
Authors: Nicolle Fagan

With the Associated Students of CSU claiming ownership over the brands For-Ever-Green, RamRide, RamRide Return and RamRuckus –– all ideas that were generated by ASCSU cabinet members –– the organization is bringing student intellectual property rights into the limelight.

According to ASCSU President Eric Berlinberg, these brands created by ASCSU should belong to the students, and the organization is asking the university to define the right to ownership student organizations have over the ideas they produce.

“CSU protects the use of the CSU logo and the Ram’s head,” Berlinberg said. “That is exactly what we are trying to do here, but with our intellectual property.”

In 2003, then ASCSU President Jesse Lauchner and vice-president Katie Clausen created the “For-Ever-Green” program –– an annual campus-wide tradition to this day. ASCSU wants to expand on this program, but there is hesitation because the university could theoretically use “For-Ever-Green” in their marketing strategy without permission from ASCSU.

According to Berlinberg, there is a lot of potential and opportunity in the “For-Ever-Green” brand, but they want to know that their ideas are properly accredited to the student body and not the university.

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) is being compiled by ASCSU and the administration to accomplish that task.

“As part of that MOU, the university will commit to add an ASCSU section in the CSU’s graphics standards to reiterate that these are slogans and logos for use by ASCSU,” said Jason Johnson, CSU Deputy General Counsel.

The provision will reap more ethical results over financial, simply giving credit to the creators where credit is due.

The Board of Governors still holds the ownership over the CSU brand that ASCSU and other student organizations are able to take full advantage of as affiliates of the University.

According to Johnson, CSU protects the trademarks that use the CSU brand through federal and state registration. They also police against infringement, which benefits CSU units and departments, including ASCSU.

The branding ownership is essentially nothing more than a technicality.

So what does this mean for student organizations, beside ASCSU, who have or want to introduce new programs?

Intellectual property has to be registered on at least a state level, but when the CSU logo (or the CSU brand in general) is attached to the new idea, the issue of ownership gets complicated.

“I would love to say that it is each individual or organization’s property,” said public relations student Caitlin Still. “But because we go to a university and we register and are active with marketing projects through them, we give up some of that right.”

Hypothetically though, a student organization could go through the same legal process as ASCSU for ownership of their brand independent of the university, but it is not an easy process.

ASCSU did not go without road blocks when collaborating with External Relations Division and General Counsel, but ASCSU officials said they saw importance in the months of hard work in order to get proper recognition for their creations.

Currently, the MOU has been taken to university President Tony Frank to be reviewed.

Collegian writer Nicolle Fagan can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Definitions for Understanding

Intellectual property includes copyrightable works, ideas, discoveries and inventions, all of which can be protected under federal and state law. The term relates to intangible property, such as patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets.

A brand is a product, service or concept that is distinguishable from other products, services or concepts. This is so it can be easily communicated and marketed as a unique identity.

Memorandum of Understanding is a more formal alternative to a gentleman’s agreement. Depending on the wording of the agreement, it can be legally binding, much like a contract.

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