We have been involved in a public relations program in Lubbock, Texas that I thought might be of interest to visitors to this site. Rather than name the two sides involved, I’ll post links to some of the background material as well as a few related documents you can download and you, the reader can play investigator for a few moments. If you agree with our side, perhaps you’ll consider taking action – posting on your blog, offering your thoughts with a comment below and/or sending a note to decision makers on the other side who can affect the course of this issue.
 Although it’s pretty obvious, for disclosure, DPK Public Relations is the agency of record for the small family-owned business involved. I think this PR program could be of interest to the public relations community – particularly those in Texas – for a few reasons.

First, the court’s ruling suggests that a University’s colors – in this case scarlet and black – are inherently associated with that University and therefore subject to its trademark. This means that businesses in college towns could be subject to lawsuits if they feature colors even close to the local University’s colors. In this case, the University argued that pantone colors don’t matter – any shade of red and black should be subject to their trademark.

Second, a lot of visitors to this site own and/or operate small businesses like the one being bullied in Lubbock. I certainly do and the majority of my clients are smaller, rapidly growing businesses. The small business in this (David) is being used as an example by the massive state institution (Goliath) in order to pressure other local businesses to comply with its unreasonable demands. Rather than ask the court for royalty payments from the disputed sales that they allege should have been paid (less than $6,500) or even all profits allegedly generated from the goods in question ($44,000) the University has asked the court to award $3.1 million – ALL REVENUES generated by the company during the period in question. Amazingly, the court agreed, although in the Judge’s order he admitted not reviewing the CPA analysis of royalties and profits.

Obviously, it will ruin the small mom and pop financially and force the company out of business. And it will send a clear message to other businesses using the words or colors supposedly associated with the University in their name, logos, signage or on their products. The message: stand up to us and we will shut you down.

Third, I thought our PR campaign to save the small mom and pop operation would be interesting. I won’t get into specifics, if you follow the links it’s pretty clear, but basically we are enabling those passionate about this issue to get the word out through all means possible. Unfortunately, we were engaged very late, so we have yet to have our Web presence established. But that may be a blessing in disguise, because outraged students have taken a great deal of initiative. Once we explained the challenge and offered to support them (but not pay them, mind you), they stepped in and are employing a range of amazing grassroots PR strategies such as a petition drive asking University leadership to intervene, online outreach via Facebook, MySpace, blogs and even an online petition, along with aggressive media relations to spread the word.

All visitors to this site – whether you are a public relations consultant, marketing professional, business owner/operator or student – might also be interested in chiming in with your thoughts about this big power grab. We encourage you to post your thoughts to your blog or post your comments below. You can also sign the online petition or send an e-mail to University President Dr. Jon Whitmore (tech.president@ttu.edu) and urge him to intervene. Interim Chancellor Dr. Donald Haragan (Chancellor@ttu.edu) may also benefit from your thoughts.

We’ve heard that e-mails may be bouncing back because of the volume of messages coming in, so an alternative is to call the Office of the Chancellor (806-742-0012) or the Office of the President (806-742-2011) or send a snail mail to:

Dr. Donald Haragan
Office of the Chancellor
124 Administration Building
Mailstop 42013
Lubbock, TX 79409

Jon Whitmore, Ph.D.
Office of the President
PO Box 42005
Lubbock, TX 79409