University defends BYU trademark policy

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    By Scott Johnson

    Andrew McBride never imagined he could get himself into trouble by using the letters B-Y-U in the name of his new business, but he soon found that doing so could result in potential prosecution.

    McBride, a senior from Salt Lake City, wanted to start a new business last month and wanted to use the domain name byuoffcampus.com. McBride called the BYU trademark office to make sure it would be acceptable to use the letters. BYU denied McBride”s attempt.

    “I think I made the assumption that most students make, or local business owners make, that using those three letters are just kind of free reign,” McBride said. “It”s BYU. It makes reference to the area, but what I learned is that the university holds a very strict copyright policy on those three letters.”

    BYU maintains a trademark office that monitors trademark infringement.

    “BYU”s general policy is to actively maintain, monitor and protect our trademarks,” said Brett Eden, BYU licensing and trademark specialist. “Our trademarks consist of the acronym BYU and well as the name Brigham Young University. A trademark is a trademark; we own the actual letters that are associated with Brigham Young University.”

    McBride”s new business targeted local college students. He said he designed the business to give students a service to find housing and classified information.

    “It is advisable that anybody starting a business, especially a Web site, to know you cannot use those three letters,” McBride said. “Whereas Utah County is such an entrepreneurial fertile ground and there are a lot of young people, like me, trying to start businesses and obviously trying to appeal to a very large market here, which is BYU students.”

    Eden said the University works with a licensing agency to patrol different types of trademark infringement. The Trademark Office investigates anywhere between 50 to several hundred cases each year, she said.

    “Image is a big deal,” Eden said. “In order to maintain our image we have to protect what our name is being used for.”

    BYU sends letters to inform violators of trademark laws before any action is taken. Eden said those people who wish to push the envelope of proper trademark use receive cease and desist orders.

    McBride plans to continue his business under a different name.

    “I think it”s information that is useful that the average student would probably not assume they really could be getting themselves into hot water by using B-Y-U,” McBride said.

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