Mary Cesar, the owner of Mary’s Cakes & Pastries in Northport, Alabama, received a cease-and-desist letter last week from Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) ordering her to stop selling products decorated with the University of Alabama’s trademarks and logos. Specifically, the letter stated she must stop using, “trademarks, names, logos, colors, slogans, mascots, and other indicia associated with the university” with the sale of her baked goods.
However, Cesar states that the university itself, as well as its athletic and legal departments, has placed orders for these very same products. She stated that she thought that the university wouldn’t place such orders if she had been doing something illegally.
CLC provides licensing services and enforcement programs for the university’s trademarks. According to their website, “A license must be obtained by anyone who wishes to use the names or icons of CLC member institutions. Licensing protects the institutions’ names, reputation, and image by permitting only appropriate uses and assuring that only quality products are associated with the institutions.” Cesar does not claim to have obtained such a license before using the scripted “A” and “Roll Tide” slogans on her baked goods.
Although Cesar’s use of the university’s marks was unauthorized, did CLC overreact by sending a formal cease-and-desist letter? After all, how does the sale of a few cookies truly impact the effectiveness of the university’s trademarks or branding as a whole? This “David versus Goliath” situation exemplifies why it’s important to consider how a heavy-handed cease-and-desist letter can result in negative publicity.
In this case, once The Tuscaloosa News published her story, Cesar received an overwhelming outpour of support online and in person. Consequently, the University of Alabama sent Cesar an apology and promised to amicably resolve the issue with her so she could continue to sell baked goods with the university’s marks. Had CLC chosen to give Cesar a quick call rather than send her the cease-and-desist letter, perhaps the parties would have reached the same outcome without drawing such negative attention to the university.