Can I use my school's name on T-shirts for sale?

Question

I was thinking about printing up T-shirts and other items to sell at my graduate school, and I was wondering whether there would be any legal problems with using the school name on the shirt. My school is a nonprofit organization that is funded primarily by tuition.

Answer

Most likely your school considers its name to be a service mark, legally identical to a trademark, and you would need permission to use it on your shirts. (A service mark or trademark need not have a symbol next to it to be considered a protectable mark. Using the name in a particular context is sufficient. And even nonprofits can own trademarks.)

Your safest course is to get a written note from school officials allowing you to use the name for the T-shirts.

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