Monday, January 6, 2014

Copyright infringement of college football helmet designs.

For almost 20 years, the University of Oregon's football team has been known for its unique uniform designs. Nike is the outfitter for Oregon, and Nike's founder, Phil Knight, is an Oregon alum. Knight's beneficence is the reason for the plethora of uniform designs, and he has also donated substantial sums of money to the school and football program.

To design the football helmets for Oregon and other college football teams, Nike uses a company named Hydro Graphics. Hydro Graphics uses water transfer printing to apply the designs to the football helmets. After creating the helmets, it is unclear whether Hydro Graphics retains ownership of the copyright, or assigns the copyright to Nike. In either case, the copyright covers the stylistic design of the helmets, not the functional part of the helmets themselves.

Hydro Graphics developed this series of winged-designs for Oregon, to represent the school's mascot, the Ducks. The Rice University Owls used a substantially similar or identical design on its football helmets for this year's Liberty Bowl. Rice's team outfitter is Adidas, not Nike. Hydro Graphics does not list Rice as one of its customers in its portfolio. So, the helmet designers or the copyright owners of the Oregon helmets (Hydro Graphics or Nike) appear not to be the same people who designed the Rice helmets.

Unless Rice's designer licensed the copyright from Hydro Graphics or Nike, or Hydro Graphics designed the helmet and did not place it on its portfolio, this is an actionable case of copyright infringement.

No comments:

Post a Comment