Owners of Joe-College T-shirt shop ordered to pay KU Athletics $667,507

LAWRENCE | The owners of a Lawrence business has been ordered to pay Kansas Athletics Inc. $667,507 for legal fees and other expenses arising from a lawsuit over University of Kansas-themed T-shirts.

Larry Sinks, Clark Orth and Victory Sportswear LLC — known as — must pay the costs for “trademark infringement” that “was willful and deliberate,” U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson ruled.

Federal jurors in July 2008 ordered the defendants to pay $127,000 for selling shirts that jurors said could be confused with official Kansas Jayhawk-licensed merchandise. The jurors found that 53 of the 206 Joe-College T-shirt designs in question had infringed upon or diluted Kansas' trademarks.

The university later sought more sanctions, claiming the business was still displaying and selling the disputed T-shirts. Kansas wanted triple the company's profits and about $1.4 million in attorneys fees and costs.

Robinson denied that request, saying Sinks and Joe-College misunderstood exactly which T-shirt designs were banned.

Sinks said he was “numb” after Monday's ruling and not sure how it would impact him or his business.

“I just don't know what it means for me,” he said. “I don't know the appeals process. I simply don't know what it means. ... I don't have it (the money), I can tell you that.”

Kansas Athletics earns about $2 million a year in licensing revenues from products that contain Jayhawks, KU logos, Kansas team names and other related items, said Jim Marchiony, associate athletics director.

Licensing revenue finances student scholarships, “and the majority of those students are not athletes, by the way,” Marchiony said.

The university continues to appeal the original verdict.

“This is not something that we wanted to do,” Marchiony said. “We communicated several times with him about this before it went to trial, so he had many opportunities and many options to avoid the situation in which we find ourselves now.”


Information from: Lawrence Journal-World,