Yale logos dominate campus — splashed across clothing, dining ware and office supplies, among dozens of other items — but the right to use University trademarks is far scarcer than the merchandise they decorate.
High-end, Swiss-owned clothing brand Gant, which officially opened its New Haven location on York Street Thursday, is among the 130 companies licensed by the Office of the Vice President and the Secretary to use the Yale name and trademarks. Representatives from Gant and two other stores said the office’s licensing policies — which are designed to protect Yale’s reputation — are justifiably strict.
“They’re very, very precise in terms of minutia and details to make sure it’s in terms of the Yale policies,” Gant USA president and CEO Ari Hoffman said of the University’s licensing terms. “Any great brand protector would have similar rules.”
The University assesses every prospective use of its name and logos for appropriateness, quality, intended use and marketing in collaboration with the Office of Marketing and Trademark Licensing, said Stephanie Schwartz, the office’s associate secretary and director, in an e-mail Tuesday. When the University finds an unauthorized use of the name or trademarks, Schwartz said, the primary goal is to make sure the improper use does not hurt Yale’s reputation.
Barry Cobden, the owner of Campus Customs on Broadway, said his business has learned what merchandise Yale will approve since it first opened in the late 1970s. The product must come from a reliable maker if Campus Customs is not the first manufacturer, Cobden said. The University must also approve custom designs students wish to market, he said, adding that it’s typically easy to tell what will not meet Yale standards.
“The things you watch on television that have a little ‘bleep’ in front of them wouldn’t get approved,” he said.
Indeed, the Yale Licensing website lists products related to alcohol, tobacco, drugs, sex and gambling among items that will not be permitted to use the Yale name or trademarks. The list also includes food and beverages, lighters and “high-risk leisure items” such as skateboards and scooters. The University also has specific standards for where marks can be placed on clothing, how marks can be scaled and what approximates Yale Blue.
In March, Gant plans to relaunch a limited edition line of shirts with the Yale logo. Hoffman said that when he first approached the Office of Marketing and Trademark Licensing about the shirts, which are based on designs originally sold at the Yale Co-op in the 1960s, Yale seemed “puzzled for a second.” But after looking into the history of the Yale Co-op, Hoffman said, the University signed off on the project. The negotiating process — from beginning to signing the contract — took about three months, Hoffman said, adding that he understood the University’s selectivity.
“There’s a million shirts out there, but there’s only one Gant,” Hoffman said. “And the same can be said of Yale University, and it is a brand.”
Gant’s new store is filled with Yale memorabilia, including a dressing room curtain covered with faded Yale Co-op logos. All the decorations are vintage items that Gant purchased or owned, Hoffman said, and do not need Yale’s approval to be displayed.
Every single item in The Yale Bookstore carrying the University name or logo has passed through the marketing and licensing office and may use the Yale brand name, said general merchandise manager Andrea Snyder.
But for Yale Locks, an international lock company established in the 1840s, trademark rights have panned out differently. The company has a “long-standing agreement” with Yale University that lets both parties “share” the name around the world, Schwartz said.
The Yale shield, the word “Yale” and the image of a bulldog leaning on the Y are registered University trademarks — followed by ® — while the phrases “Yale University,” “Yale Bulldogs,” letter “Y,” and bulldog head are trademarks followed by ™.