School mascots are meant to inspire and rally students to strive for success. Those mascots are often symbols of desirable traits, such as strength, perseverance or indomitability. Sometimes, however, a New York school chooses its mascot or logo because it is familiar to students. For one school in another state, a familiar mascot was also a violation of intellectual property rights.
The communications manager of the middle school informed the media that the school recently made the choice to change its mascot and logo from Sylvester, the Looney Tunes cartoon cat, to a more generic and ferocious-looking feline. The school had not yet received a cease and desist letter for its use of the copyrighted image. However, school officials have had increasing difficulty getting copy centers to violate copyright law by reproducing documents and flyers that carried the Sylvester the Cat logo.
Students, staff and parents who responded to a survey approved of replacing the hapless tomcat with a wildcat, using the same color scheme of the original logo. The change meant redesigning letterheads, website pages and other communications from the school. It also meant removing rooftop ornaments of Sylvester.
While it may seem drastic to make such a change when no copyright litigation is forthcoming, artists in New York and across the country may applaud the move. After all, too often the works of artists are used without permission, denying the creators the control and potential royalties they deserve. When this occurs, artists have a right to protect their intellectual property by seeking legal advice from an attorney with experience in copyright law.