Earlier this month when I interviewed Karl Larson, who is selling Fighting Sioux parody merchandise at NewSioux.com even as UND engages in an epic and often slapstick effort to transition to a new nickname, he told me he plans to keep selling despite legal threats from the university.
Today in the Grand Forks Herald we learn that Larson responded to a September 23 “cease and desist” letter from UND asserting that his merchandise is legally protected satire:
The cease and desist letter from UND dated Sept. 23 states Larson’s logo is an “unauthorized reproduction,” and is likely to cause confusion, constituting copyright infringement.
“While your website includes a self-serving reference to ‘parody,’ we do not believe that there is any legal authority that would even remotely suggest that the minor, almost imperceptible modification to the work here qualifies as permissive use,” the letter stated.
Larson, working through the company Drip Forward, which he created in 2014 to conduct freelance design work, enlisted the help of Fargo attorney Sean Foss of O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Foss Attorneys.
Foss penned an Oct. 5 rebuttal arguing the use of the logo and changes made to it is parody and therefore legal.
“All of these changes produce an effect that is both a comedic commentary on the seriousness of controversy surrounding the Fighting Sioux logo, as well as ridicule of the university’s struggles to select a replacement nickname and logo,” the letter states.
What’s interesting is that it’s been nearly a month since that response was sent, and so far UND hasn’t responded. Which doesn’t mean they won’t, but given how abysmally the nickname transition process is going do they really want to open up another front against a guy selling parody shirts?
Time will tell, but for now you can still get your Fighting Sioux parody merchandise right here.
In related news, I spotted this on Facebook last night, and it’s pretty much the UND nickname process in a nutshell (relevant background here):
Update: You can read the response to UND from the NewSioux.com attodney below, and the original cease and desist here.