Chief logo's designer wants rights to it

Chief logo's designer wants rights to it

URBANA – If the University of Illinois has no more use for the Chief Illiniwek logo, the artist who created it wants it back.

An attorney for graphic designer Jack Davis, who created the logo in 1980 and sold it to the university for $210, sent a letter to the UI asserting that Davis has a "right to resume control of the logo and associated rights to it," said UI spokesman Tom Hardy.

The letter was dated March 14, the day after the UI Board of Trustees voted to retire the Chief's dance and eliminate the use of American Indian imagery by the university and its athletic teams.

The UI announced Friday that it would keep ownership rights to the logo and phase out production of Chief merchandise by the end of the year.

Davis' attorney, Robert Auler, said Wednesday that Davis has an "excellent" moral and legal claim to the logo, though he declined to elaborate.

Associate University Counsel Mark Henss responded to Auler's letter on March 19, asking for further clarification, Hardy said.

"I'm not convinced he has a case," Chancellor Richard Herman said.

Auler said he was still "assembling a response" to the UI.

"We're continuing to talk to the university about this," Auler said.

Davis declined comment Wednesday.

Hardy said UI officials weren't surprised by Davis' letter.

"He had telegraphed with his public comments that he was going to pursue this," Hardy said.

Davis told The News-Gazette last month that he'd like to see the logo go on in some way. He said he designed the image "for the school to use for the athletics program, and if they're not going to use it any more, I'd like it back. It's an image that's a big part of me."

The circular image of a stoic American Indian wearing a headdress and breastplate has been the national sports symbol of the UI for nearly three decades.

With the blessing of UI athletic officials, Davis drew up the design after being impressed by a new Hawkeye logo at the University of Iowa. A 1969 UI graduate in graphic design, he remembers being "in awe" of the Chief as a fan.

The Chief image brings in at least six figures annually for the university.

Administrators are still discussing the university's options on what to do with the trademark, but they have no plans to transfer it to any organizations or companies.

Atlanta, Ga.-based Collegiate License Co., which handles licensing for the UI, recommended that course of action to prevent third parties from using the logo in ways that aren't in keeping with the university's guidelines, UI spokeswoman Robin Kaler said last week.

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