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The Voice of the Black Community
CIAA takes to different court
Lawsuit part of league drive to protect brand
Published Monday, February 18, 2013 11:37 am
by Herbert L. White

The CIAA’s campaign against unsanctioned use its name during its annual basketball tournament is consistent with its more aggressive deterrence policy.

CIAA Commissioner Jacqie Carpenter

Last week’s filing of a federal lawsuit in Charlotte against party promoters and vendors alleged to have used the athletic conference’s name to hype non-sanctioned events and products is in keeping with new commissioner Jacqie Carpenter’s pledge to defend its trademarks against unauthorized appropriation.

“If somebody was attaching your name and not using it for things that are healthy for your family, what would you do?” Carpenter said last month at a press conference to unveil the league’s new seal and basketball tournament logo. “We have a brand that’s our family brand and if you want to use it, just go through the right process of using it. Don’t say you love the CIAA but don’t want to use it properly in the right form or the right way. It’s our job to protect our brand.”

The CIAA has become big business in Charlotte, where the annual basketball tournament brought $50 million in spending to the local economy last year, according to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. In addition to the basketball tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena, parties and events that aren’t sponsored by the league but held during the week draw thousands of patrons to the city. The lawsuit aims to halt use of the league’s name, a response similar to larger sports properties like the National Football League, which has sued to protect its biggest brand, the Super Bowl.  

“I can see where that could be a concern,” said Yvette Russell, a marketing professor at Johnson C. Smith University. “I don’t think that’s any different between what any sports organization would do to protect their brand. When you have a successful brand you should have the expectation to protect the brand and be able to profit from it.”

While big-league sports entities have sued to protect their name from knockoff T-shirt vendors and unaffiliated promotions, the CIAA, a Division II conference made up of 12 small liberal arts colleges along the East Coast, is jumping into the fray. Russell said she couldn’t recall a similar case among small schools, but “it doesn’t mean it wouldn’t happen,” she said.

Carpenter, who was named commissioner in August, said the league will be selective about how it deters knock-offs, intimating that legal action is but one strategy to determine how the CIAA markets itself.

“We’ve got a lot of things that are attached to us that are not healthy at this tournament and we’ve got to figure out how to manage it a little piece at a time,” she said. “Are we going to spend a lot of money going to court and all that? Probably not, but we are going to manage it in a way that we’re not playing with our brand.”


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