Court Says University of North Dakota Can Keep Unused Logo Designs Secret
After the University of North Dakota rebranded its sports teams as the Fighting Hawks, it unveiled a newly designed logo, featuring a tough-looking hawk on top of green lettering.
While the university was content with what Inforum called the "determined hawk" logo designed by SME Inc., a request was made to view the other designs created during the design process, under the assumption that they were public record. UND declined, saying that it didn't need to release the logos, as they could be considered trade secrets.
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem agreed with UND, declaring that the logos were "of a privileged nature," and releasing them would "reduce the economic value they would otherwise have on the open market."
In his opinion, Stenehjem wrote that preliminary designs not chosen by UND could be used by SME in future projects, and it would hurt its competitive position in the marketplace to allow competitors to see and use those images.
"In addition, it would further harm SME's competitive position if its competitors could utilize the designs without incurring the same costs and time spent creating the designs," he wrote, according to Inforum.
SME created nearly 50 potential designs before the university decided on the "determined hawk."
UND further stated that the designs were exempt from any obligation to release.
"There's a clause in the contract that the only thing UND owned was basically the finished design, which is what they got," Jack McDonald, general counsel for the North Dakota Newspaper Association, said, according to Inforum. "SME made the case that, 'Well, we're in effect going to use them again someplace else, and we're going to reuse them, but we don't want people to know we're reusing them.' It's kind of a funny argument. In this case, I can see their point."