U officials object to Goldy endorsement in liquor ad

The University would use state statutes and unfair competition law if it decided to pursue a trademark infringement case.

Geoffrey Ziezulewicz

A flyer claiming Zipp’s Liquor Store is “where Goldy Gopher shops” was not authorized to use the mascot’s name, University officials said.

“I can guarantee you, they were never given permission to use the name Goldy Gopher on any of their literature,” said Robert Hicks, assistant department director for intercollegiate athletics, the University department that handles trademarks.

The University has not taken legal action on the matter, Hicks said.

Zipp’s owner Andy Schoenzeit, said the University has not contacted him about the flyer.

“I haven’t heard what they’re thinking about telling me or what’s going on,” Schoenzeit said.

He said he has no further comment until the University contacts him.

City Pages distributed the flyers on campus in bags containing their annual manuals, said Molly Ryan, senior account executive at City Pages. The annual manual is a guide for activities happening in the Twin Cities.

While the University does not have a federally registered trademark on the name and image of Goldy Gopher, Hicks said, it is something the University can say it owns through state trademark statutes and Goldy’s association with the University.

“We don’t have Goldy Gopher registered per se, but there isn’t a very great likelihood of confusion to anyone in the metro area, or the state, as to who Goldy Gopher represents,” Hicks said.

The University would use state statutes and unfair competition law if it decided to pursue the infringement, Hicks said.

Unfair competition law includes trademark infringement, said Ruth Okediji, a professor at the University Law School. It can pertain to areas outside direct competition, such as the relationship between Zipp’s and the University, she said.

“Unfair competition law deals with harm caused to the commercial relations of others, and that includes infringement of trademark,” Okediji said.

Hicks said such infringement issues are not common because most people are aware of who owns popular trademarks.

As a result, he said, blatant University trademark infringement rarely occurs without somebody noticing.

“People understand that the golden arches belong to McDonald’s,” Hicks said. “People are far more cognizant of intellectual property and trademark rights than you give them credit for.”

Hicks said he plans to discuss the flyer with the Office of the General Counsel, which handles legal matters at the University.

“We’ll discuss what needs to be done,” Hicks said. “It may be something as simple as a phone call, followed up by some correspondence from the (Office of the General Counsel) asking the liquor store to cease and desist using the name Goldy Gopher.”

Most unauthorized use of University trademarks ends with a warning, he said.

Regardless of the outcome, Hicks said, Zipp’s used Goldy Gopher without the University’s permission.

“Anything that has to do with alcohol would not be something that we would allow the name of the institution, nor its trademarks, to be involved with,” Hicks said.

Wojtek Kraszkiewicz, a neuroscience senior, said the Goldy Gopher testimonial did not impress him, and that it would not increase his chances of shopping at Zipp’s.

“I don’t care what Goldy Gopher does in his free time,” Kraszkiewicz said.