University Park, Pa- On Wednesday, Penn State announced that its applying to trademark the words “Happy Valley” for use on shirts and hats.
Now some question whether the University is trying to monopolize the nickname and wonder how PSU plans to enforce this trademark if it’s approved.
The University announced that if they obtained the trademark, they would not plan on charging local businesses that sell “Happy Valley” apparel.
But, WTAJ spoke with a trademark lawyer Friday who said if you do sell “Happy Valley” apparel locally, it will take more than a handshake agreement to ensure you’re not charged or forced to stop selling “Happy Valley” clothing.
“If anyone wants to protect their rights to continue using ‘Happy Valley’… like these local merchants… then they should get something in writing from Penn State because what they’re saying is only as good as their word,” said Charles Riddle, Owner and Attorney at Esquiretrademarks.com.
Attorney Riddle says that if Penn State gains the trademark to “Happy Valley” shirts and hats, local businesses would have some legal power over the University’s trademark. This is because they were the first to use the Happy Valley apparel.
“These local merchants have priority rights above and beyond Penn State, which they can use to cancel Penn State’s application, cancel or oppose it,” Riddle said.
Also, if PSU gains the trademark to “Happy Valley” shirts and headwear, it would apply to apparel across all 50 states.
But, it would not impact non-apparel businesses that incorporate the name…such as restaurants (except if they have their own apparel line), and apartment complexes.
Local businesses WTAJ contacted for feedback, that could be impacted by this, declined to comment.
The official U.S. Patent and Trademark website indicated that Penn State applied for this trademark on December 4, 2018.
A widespread media release regarding PSU’s “Happy Valley” trademark application was made this week.
WTAJ reached out to Penn State University with the following questions:
-Technically, could the University choose to charge local entities that use “Happy Valley” on apparel, at any time? Or would there be an official agreement with an official timeline to not charge these entities?
-Does the University plan to charge non-apparel businesses that use the moniker?
-Will non-local entities that sell “Happy Valley” apparel be charged?
-Was there any type of negotiation between PSU and the previous holder of the trademark regarding PSU’s application?
-The University has stated they will meet with local government and businesses to discuss the trademark, what would be the main purpose of this meeting?
Below is the response WTAJ received:
“As stated we do not plan to charge local entities. Beyond that, it is premature to begin to answer questions about any processes that may be put in place. We are just in the beginning phases of having conversations with local entities, and that conversation is critical. The purpose of doing this now is there is an opportunity to safeguard the continued future use of the term, and the University believed this was important for furtherance of its town and gown relationship.”