UI settles dispute with pro-Chief group

UI settles dispute with pro-Chief group

URBANA — The University of Illinois has reached a settlement in a trademark dispute with the Honor the Chief Society that will allow the group to sponsor activities honoring the former UI symbol but not use the term "Chief Illiniwek" or the official Chief logo — with some exceptions.

The group also cannot refer to any individual as "the next Chief Illiniwek" and must make clear that its activities are in no way associated with the university or its agents, according to the agreement, which was obtained by The News-Gazette.

The settlement resolves a dispute that dates back to 2008 — a year after the UI officially retired the Chief — when the university notified the group Students for Chief Illiniwek that it was infringing on the university's trademarks by selling T-shirts and other items with the Chief Illiniwek trademark, using the logo on its website and using the words "Chief Illiniwek," "Chief" and "Illiniwek." The group was organizing "The Next Dance" rally at the Assembly Hall, where a student wearing a replica Chief costume planned to dance for fans.

The show went on for several years, but in 2010 the university threatened legal action against the Honor the Chief Society, which supported the annual "Next Dance," for using the name Chief Illiniwek in selling items on its website and promoting appearances by a Chief portrayer. The society had filed an application to trademark some Chief Illiniwek items.

Under this week's agreement, the society agrees not to pursue trademark rights and the UI will not object to — "but does not in any way approve, sponsor or endorse" — the group hosting events honoring or advocating for the Chief. The events can include "a performance in the nature of a choreographed tribute to the dance, as was performed by University authorized portrayers of 'Chief Illiniwek' between 1926 and 2007."

However, the group cannot use the term "Chief Illiniwek," the official Chief logo or any other trademarks, except to advocate for reinstating the Chief as the UI symbol or to refer to the history of the Chief. Those are not considered a "trademark use," according to the settlement.

The group also cannot refer to any dancer or portrayer as "Chief Illiniwek" or "the next Chief Illiniwek."

"I think the most important thing is that it helps everyone involved better understand where the lines are," campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler said Wednesday. "Having those things spelled out in writing and agreed to officially is helpful."

Roger Huddleston, co-founder of the Honor the Chief Society, said he was "relieved" by the settlement. The two parties "probably came out better than the Republicans and Democrats in their negotiations," he said Wednesday.

Huddleston said the original trademark application was an attempt to be able to use the term "Chief Illiniwek" at will. The settlement's prohibitions on the term "Chief Illiniwek" mostly involve merchandising, he said.

"It doesn't prohibit us from doing anything we want to do or we're currently doing. It doesn't prevent us from going ahead and taking sides and being pro-Chief. It doesn't take anything away from teaching about the history of the Illiniwek tradition," he said.

Other terms of the settlement:

— The society must put a disclaimer on its website and promotional materials stating that it is not "sponsored, licensed, approved or endorsed by the University of Illinois."

— It cannot sell or promote any goods bearing UI trademarks without authorization, although it can sell items with the term "Honor the Chief," another Native American logo that is not too "confusingly similar" to the Chief, or images of former Chief portrayers.

— The group's website cannot link to any official UI web page without the university's written consent, though it can link to websites of related student organizations, such as Students for Chief Illiniwek.

— It also cannot make any references that imply that the university, the UI Alumni Association or the UI Foundation endorses or is affiliated with its activities, although registered student organizations are free to endorse or sponsor the society's activities.

"While the University continues to recognize that First Amendment rights may exist in events and performances related to 'Chief Illiniwek,' the University will defend its intellectual property rights and its policies where applicable," the settlement states.

Kaler added: "We certainly value free speech, and I don't think there's anything at all in this settlement that is counter to that."

Huddleston said his group is not planning another "Next Dance" rally "at this time," but added, "We're looking forward to planning more Chief events in the future."

He expressed appreciation to the university for "giving us the respect of an agreement."

"It's been a dialogue, and it's not been a bad one. It's been long and expensive for us," he said, estimating he spent "tens of thousands" of dollars on the issue.

The agreement is strictly between the UI and the Honor the Chief Society, although it states that "the parties expressly reserve the right to prosecute suits and claims against any and all other entities or persons that may use like or confusingly similar marks to either of the parties' trademarks."

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cretis16 wrote on October 17, 2013 at 7:10 am

Would it be legal for me to say : GO CHIEF" at games or will I be arrested?

purplewolf63 wrote on October 17, 2013 at 2:10 pm

haha I agree!!!

skiparoo wrote on October 17, 2013 at 9:10 am

arrested.   by the p.c. police.  go chief.

Bulldogmojo wrote on October 17, 2013 at 11:10 am

The artist formerly known as Chief

purplewolf63 wrote on October 17, 2013 at 2:10 pm

exactly!!! Well no one is going to tell me not to cheer on the Chief or use his name as much as I want!! How absurd! This whole thing still makes my blood boil! I cant believe the University abandoned the Chief & did this anyway! How loyal are they to a very long lived tradition that brought so much to this school? It was never meant to harm anyone or say anything bad about Native Americans at all, it was to honor them & the U of I..all I can say is WOW!

Bulldogmojo wrote on October 18, 2013 at 12:10 pm

you didn't get my post

Danno wrote on October 17, 2013 at 12:10 pm

*BREAKING NEWS*...Chief Illiniwek Arrested for vulgar 'Twerking' ritual with Pocahontas at end of halftime. Event updates coming, pending the approval of Native American Indian gambling casino owners.

Sid Saltfork wrote on October 17, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Maybe, the name could be changed to the Illinois Jaguars??

Danno wrote on October 17, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Given their 0-6 NFL record, that just might be fitting. We just have to find one in Illinois for taxidermy and display. Hang on...lemmie' check eBay. How about the Illinois Oracles? 

Lostinspace wrote on October 17, 2013 at 4:10 pm

The Illinois Blood Boilers sounds nice.

Danno wrote on October 17, 2013 at 5:10 pm

And, the Chief, broken, ridiculed, tormented, unable to become 'civilised' to 'modern/progressive' man, falls quietly towards His final Slumber, surrounded by NCAA laywers, pop culture and, spiteful 'do gooders', wistfully recalls from His Youth, the merry tune of Johnny Horton's 'Cherokee Boogie'. The canyons echo, 'Chief......Chief......Chief.........'

Nice Davis wrote on October 17, 2013 at 9:10 pm

good riddance to shameful rubbish

Danno wrote on October 23, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Nice Davis, my apologies for my prior (*removed*) post. I do appreciate all fellow posters' opinions. I Forgot To Remember Myself.

spangwurfelt wrote on October 19, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Because if there's one authentic thing a Cherokee knows how to do authentically, it's boogie.

Illumni wrote on October 18, 2013 at 12:10 pm

After 2 years (and counting) without a BIG10(+1+1+2)  win the university will have to bring back Chief Illiniwek in order to get people to show up at football games.

MarshallCollins wrote on October 18, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Fortunately, I still have clothing from my grad school years of '82-'83 with the Chief Illiniwek image. And, yes, on a good day that navy sweater with the orange pinstripes still fits.

Sid Saltfork wrote on October 18, 2013 at 3:10 pm

I wish my Panthers hoodie still fit.  A great winning team with little scandal over the years. 

Local Yocal wrote on October 19, 2013 at 10:10 am
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I got an idea, let's argue about this mascot for the 24th year, and ignore tuition hikes, faculty cutbacks, financial aid austerity measures, and the fact minority enrollment numbers are lower than the 1968 Project 500 ambitions. For those who still bemoan how much you love a dancing indian at a halftime show, this issue was never about how you felt about it, it was about how it affected real indians and the only thing that got the white power structure's attention was the NCAA's decision to prohibit the U of I from participating in post-season play if they kept dressing up a white kid to dance around. Social change only happens, apparently, when not changing may cost somebody some money. Go Jaguars, or panthers, or prairie fire, or LOCOmotives, or whatever the heck you're naming the boys with the bally nowadays.

And remember kids at home, The Insurance Company (whose profits in 2012 surged to $3.2 billion) need you to donate $160 million so their basketball court has air conditioning and skyboxes. Hurry up, okay? (Don't you just love the $6 million dollar scoreboard?)

Sid Saltfork wrote on October 19, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Thank goodness, lacrosse is not a really big sport.............

If the two sides on the Chief issue could debate it in the parking lot, the fans could enjoy the games.  Give it another 30 years; and it will fade away just like it's debaters.  Ever notice how stories about a dog, the Chief, and mayors get tons of comments?  An avenging dog that bites politicians, and politically incorrect characters.................roams Shampoobannana..... named Marvin....? 

Local Yocal wrote on October 21, 2013 at 11:10 am
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The economic and social priorities of most News-Gazette writers and readers is a study in willful ignorance and forgetfullness. I am always in awe and pity for anyone who would try to suggest good or sound governance to such an audience. I've met some of the Pro-Chiefers and found them to be some of the meanest idolators ever,  veritable Nazis who demand ignorant tradition over actual education. Do not attempt to disagree with these people, they'll put you on a tailgate barbeque grill because for them it's: "Honor the Chief- or else..;" which is partly why this issue will take another 30 years to finally go away- if it ever does. Like Santa Claus to a 2 year-old, they believe Chief Illiniwek to be a real god. They even suggest that they are the victims and refuse the testimony of real indians who say this stuff offends, declaring themselves to know what's best for the injuns. Stunning zealots they are.

I was told by an emminent U of I Anthropology professor that he didn't give a rip or notice to the U of I's debate over the mascot until he saw how Pro-Chiefers treated other people who disagreed with them. It was then he marshalled his department to take a stand against the Chief's portrayal at halftime.


Sid Saltfork wrote on October 21, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Yep, us readers are "a study in willful ignorance and forgetfullness".....   We get upset over corrupt government, crimes, accidents, business deals that cost the taxpayers money, and other minor news items instead of the really big issue of a minority caricuture that is banned on campus.

I have met Chief supporters.  I disagree with them; but I have not found them to be "some of the meanest idolators ever, veritable Nazis who demand ignorant tradition over actual education".  Some of them attend my church.  Some of them donate to charities.  Some of them are my neighbors.  Some of them are my relatives.  We disagree on the Chief; but that does not make them evil.  Perhaps misguided; but not Nazis.  Zealots are on both sides of an issue.

I have read your comments on other issues; and I have been impressed.  Your a little over the top on this one though.  I have met real, old time Nazis.  The supporters of the banned caricuture are nothing like the real, old time Nazis.

The Chief is gone; and he ain't coming back unless it is in a cartoon.

Local Yocal wrote on October 21, 2013 at 10:10 pm
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Tweet. Foul, Local Yocal, unnecessary roughness on the Pro-Chiefers as an entire group. You are right, Sid, a little over the top on the earlier comment above and it was full of hyperbole for sure. Was remembering some specific interactions I had with some specific Pro-Chiefers and it is completely unfair to catagorize them all that way, since I haven't met them all. I have no doubt your experience with them is as true as mine. 

To better summarize my position, I am just tired of the issue and can we get on with more important matters?

Sid Saltfork wrote on October 22, 2013 at 9:10 am

You, and I are on the same page on that.  Hopefully, there will not be a "dog story" in the NG this week also.   Sorry if I offended you.

Local Yocal wrote on October 22, 2013 at 6:10 pm
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No offense taken, it was good call, language/and parallels I used earlier were over the top and too broad a brush.

Bheller wrote on October 23, 2013 at 11:10 pm


I disagree with you, also :)


Well said!

People forget, we have more to gain from being united, and more to gain from development of mutual understanding, and that ends at slander..  Or name calling "racist, Nazi", and the previous poster, you were not the first to insinuate that idea..  

Racist, truly is a hard thing to defend one self again, sort of the modern day 



Bheller wrote on October 23, 2013 at 11:10 pm


And here it is, a case literally of what I have experienced at the hand of zealots of anti-chiefers.

Your logic is a problem, and not only are your comments out of line, howveer I could argue they are somewhat standard for what I have encountered.

Professors berating students, harassing them in classrooms for wearing Chief Illiniwek regalia, to even watching and commenting on student evaluations as they were written...

You see... Isolated incidents do not a rule make.

I more call troll-ery with your comments...  All that you state, the harssment, and even the "old fashioned shaming" as a noational politician refered to in a seporate case, are tactics employed bear your opinion upon others.  Rather than reach understanding, compromise, discuss, you work to cursade against something, "by all means nessecary".

You really lost me at Nazi's, however, you are not the first to state that, and you truly degrade your point, at least under your logic stated, by going to personal attacks.  Argue on merit, not what others do...  

"When the rooster crows, the sun rises.  Therefore, the rooster causes the sun to rise."

Just because SOME supporters are illogical and rude, and crass, does not make a point less valid...   IF so, there are a few professors I have had, and friend shave had, that truly, truly lost this debate ages ago...


cretis16 wrote on October 21, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Why dont we just hire Florida State's chief? Nobody ( even the NCAA ) has a problem with the chief throwing the spear and riding the horse all over the field. Why dont we have a chief like FSU at Illinois Nobody could figure out who to write the check to?