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Iowa State's Logo.

Student organizations will no longer be allowed to use trademarked words or images affiliated with Iowa State University in their names due to new trademark guidelines.

These guidelines were created to protect Iowa State’s name and interests from potential negative attention, according to Barbara Biederman, an associate counsel in Iowa State’s Office of University Counsel. Student organizations will still be able to use some trademarked designs and words based on a tier system. 

“Student organizations are independent of the university, and their actions aren’t necessarily endorsed, or reflections or part of the university functions,” said Biederman.

Biederman and Leesha Zimmerman, director of trademark licensing at Iowa State, said they want students to identify with the university. The trademark office will no longer act as content managers in an attempt to streamline the process and make it easier for organizations to identify with Iowa State.

The new guidelines focus on three tiers of student organizations: sponsored, affiliated and registered. Each tier has different regulations regarding the use of Iowa State trademarks. 

The registered tier is the most common among student organizations and have the least access to trademarks. Registered organizations are allowed to use the words "at ISU," "at Iowa State" or "at Iowa State University" after their names.

The next tier is affiliated, which have slightly more access to trademarks. This tier allows student organizations to use four trademarked images and gives the organization more flexibility when it comes to the name.

Affiliated organizations must clearly identify the relationship with Iowa State, by using "at Iowa State," "at ISU" and "at Iowa State University" taglines required with organizations in the registered tier. 

Finally, the sponsored tier has the most freedom regarding trademarks. Organizations in this tier may use various word and design trademarks. They are also required to clearly list their full name and affiliation with the university. 

Should organizations decide to not affiliate with Iowa State, none of the trademarked words and images may be used.

The Trademark Licensing Office has been reviewing and updating these guidelines since October 2017. However, before then, the guidelines had not been touched since January 2013. After looking at other universities' trademark rules, Iowa State chose the three tier form. 

In order to find an agreeable solution for both the trademark office and student organizations, focus groups were created. They also collaborated with the International Collegiate Licensing Association, Zimmerman said.

“I really wanted to be inclusive, I really wanted to get students involved, and I really wanted to look at and research the collegiate industry to get the best practices of what they were doing,” Zimmerman said.

Student organizations who will be affected by these changes have already been notified of their need to adapt to the new guidelines.

George Micalone, director of student activities, said the organizations who have contacted him have had mixed reactions.

Some organizations that use trademarked designs or names may have concerns because of the changes they will have to make, according to Micalone. Others have been willing to adapt, and did so quickly after begin notified of the changes.

Most groups are considered indifferent either because they have not communicated with the Student Activities Center or because it does not affect them.

In the past two years, around 150 student organizations out of more than 900 have submitted a minimum of five trademark related requests. These organizations may be most affected by the new guidelines.

Of those 150 groups, some requests could have no impact on the changes. Micalone estimates that 10 percent of student organizations will see change.

“Access to the university trademark is a privilege. Many universities are far more restrictive than we are," said Micalone. "If you looked at the policy today as if you had never seen it before, it is very generous in regards to what we allow because we do value our student organizations.”

Most student organizations don’t use trademarks, so they will see no change to their brand. For the groups that are impacted, the Student Activities Center is working with them to ease the transition.

Zimmerman, Biederman and Micalone all said they want to help make the transition into the new guidelines as easy as possible and will work with student organizations and their advisors to effectively make those changes.

For any questions regarding the new guidelines and how they may affect a student organization, the trademark office can be contacted over the phone at 515-294-4402, on their website at trademark.iastate.edu or in person at their office in 2750 Beardshear Hall.

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