Washington State University Tells House Candidates to Stop Using Trademarked Phrases on Promo Material
With Election Day occurring four weeks from tomorrow, it is no secret that candidates are seeking competitive edges in their respective races, with many pundits feeling the results could prove quite influential in determining the country’s course. As the highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who has earned that distinction by chairing the House Republican Conference, is hoping to continue to represent Washington’s 5th Congressional district, and Lisa Brown, the former Washington Senate majority leader, is looking to unseat her. Three months after Brown received a minor rebuke from Washington State University over the use of its logo in a commercial, her November foe received an October surprise when the same institution brushed back against her inclusion of a trademarked phrase on a campaign flyer.
Election materials prompt WSU cease-and-desist to Cathy McMorris Rodgers campaign; Lisa Brown’s campaign also asked to quit using university’s imagery in adshttps://t.co/du9HzGjXT9 pic.twitter.com/YVAjXz5HJV
— SpokesmanReview (@SpokesmanReview) October 6, 2018
In the summer matter, Brown, formerly the chancellor of Washington State University in Spokane, ran two video advertisements that included imagery of her former employer. A farmer who donned a branded WSU hat appeared in one of the spots, leading the powers that be to instruct her to modify the plug. This earned her a formal complaint from the school.
Her opponent, who has held her present U.S. House of Representatives seat since 2005, received a cease-and-desist from Washington State University for having “Go Cougs,” a trademarked slogan, appear on the same side of a flyer that featured her campaign logo. Regardless of the placement of the rallying cry (and despite being careful not to use the school's logo), WSU officials saw its inclusion as a possible cause for concern not only because of its presence period but also since campaign supporters had been distributing the promotional flyers—whose other side featured the Cougars’ football schedule—at home games.
“The term ‘Go Cougs’ is a trademark of Washington State University and, as such, should not be used by a political campaign.”
Cathy McMorris Rodgers and her campaign were called out by the university for using the popular slogan on campaign flyers.https://t.co/5bnb31JPlT
— The Daily Evergreen (@DailyEvergreen) October 5, 2018
Neither matter will land the candidates in hot or even lukewarm water, with Phil Weiler, the school’s vice president of marketing and communications dubbing the outreach to McMorris Rodgers “much ado about nothing” and with Brown having quickly addressed her faux pas. However, both critiques show not only how Washington State University is looking to refrain from any suppositions that it would like a particular candidate to win, but also how fervently it and other higher learning destinations strive to protect their branding.
This morning, the McMorris Rodgers campaign agreed to cease using the slogan on any campaign items. With 29 days left before voters head to the polls, the incumbent and her challenger have many more stops to make. And while Washington State University—the state’s second largest school—is a huge source of likely voters for Republicans and Democrats alike, it is safe to assume that neither is likely to entertain the notion of winning favor by using anything affiliated with the school. With respect to McMorris Rodgers, the heavier burden, from a promotional products angle, is hers, since she issued printed materials bearing the “Go Cougs” slogan, but either way, it will be interesting to see if either invokes the school in any way through a promotional concept or execution.