GREEN FOREST, Ark. — A northwest Arkansas school board has voted to continue using a tiger in its logo despite warnings that the image violates an MU trademark.
The Green Forest School Board received a letter from Collegiate Licensing Company last month that said the district's logo was "nearly identical" to the University of Missouri's trademarked tiger head. Green Forest stands to "dilute the distinctiveness of the mark that the public associates with the university" if it keeps using the logo, the letter said.
School officials initially considered redesigning the logo but voted Monday to keep the original in place after hearing from members of the community. The teacher who designed the logo, Warren Utsler, noted there are differences in the eyes, nose and stripes of the Green Forest tiger, as compared to the MU logo. Utsler also said that Green Forest's school colors are red and white — unlike Missouri's black and gold.
"We don't feel like we are treading on their trademark," School Board President Bud Phillips said. "We don't understand how anybody could be confused as to our logo representing anybody but Green Forest."
Charles Harwell, an attorney representing the school district, told school board members this week that although the tigers are similar, he doesn't believe Green Forest's logo represents a trademark violation.
"Unfortunately," Harwell said, eliciting chuckles from attendees, "that's the nature of the beast. They're both tigers."
James Aronowitz, an attorney for Collegiate Licensing Company, said MU doesn't actively look for schools with tiger mascots but that the Green Forest logo was brought to the university's attention. He also said that trademark owners have to protect their trademarks or risk losing ownership of them.
Missouri made a similar request to the Bentonville School District several years ago. Bentonville has since reworked its logo and trademarked it.