Kan. school agrees to limit use of 'Fighting Irish' items

10/20/2011 12:00 AM

10/20/2011 12:09 AM

CHAPMAN — After a tornado tore through this central Kansas community of 1,400 three years ago, destroying more than 50 homes and four school buildings, one of the rallying cries was "Fighting Irish."

After all, Chapman High School has a distinct Irish theme — school publications are called the Emerald and the Shamrock; the four-leaf clover is distinct on the school's website; and there's even a Fighting Irish library. The fighting leprechaun mascot was put on sign in front of the school.

If this sounds familiar, it should: The University of Notre Dame uses the same mascot. And it is telling Chapman High the similarities were too close for comfort.

In a statement Notre Dame provided to the Chapman school district, the university said, "In light of the fact that Chapman High School has used the 'Fighting Irish' logo in a limited capacity since as early at 1967, we will agree to allow the school to continue using this logo on items for the school's internal use, i.e., athletic uniforms, stationery, etc., so long as it is used contiguously with the wording 'Chapman High School.'

"This logo may not be used on any item that may be produced for resale. To allow others to produce and sell items featuring our registered trademarks would dilute our rights to the mark to the point where our proprietary claim would be at risk."

The leprechaun mascot, fists raised for a fight, got no similar concession.

"We regret that we cannot extend permission for Chapman High School to use this trademark," the statement reads.

Chapman school superintendent Lacee Sell said the university told school officials over the summer that the leprechaun is a federally registered trademark that the district is not allowed to use. A school district attorney suggested officials not resist Notre Dame's demands, so the district has launched a contest to design a new mascot and logo.

"We talk to students all the time about not plagiarizing, and we've used someone else's mascot for a number of years," Sell said. "We've been given a directive, and we're going to make the best of the situation."

The deadline to submit entries is Dec. 1. A committee will choose the top five suggestions, which will be put to a vote Jan. 9 through Jan. 20. One-third of the decision will come from the students, one-third from district staff and the rest from the community.

The new mascot will be unveiled during a Chapman High basketball game Feb. 10.

"We've talked to architectural firms that helped design our schools, about providing some ideas," Sell said. "We're trying to make the best of the situation by having the entire community involved."

Once a mascot and logo have been chosen, the district will explore trademarking it for Chapman so the issue never comes up again, Sell said.

"I think we'll get something bigger and better, and it'll be all ours," said Betty Ryan, who is in her 40th year of teaching at Chapman. "We'll always be the Fighting Irish, whether we can say it or not."

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