'LU' logos from Lipscomb University (left) & Liberty University (AP)
NASHVILLE (The Tennessean) -- Fans of Lipscomb University who wear "LU" sweatshirts or drink from "LU" coffee cups now have their hands on limited-edition collectors' items.
Lipscomb officials are shelving the short-lived symbol after Liberty University pressured them to stop using the "LU" logo. Both universities have used an interlocking L and U to promote their athletics departments.
Liberty, a Christian school in Virginia, federally registered the trademark a few years ago. That trademark covers the letters' use in the context of higher education.
Several months ago Liberty officials contacted Lipscomb and asked them to stop using "LU" for marketing and commercial purposes.
David Corry, Liberty's general counsel, said his university was open to a compromise that would have allowed Lipscomb to use the letters in some way, but Lipscomb officials decided to stop altogether.
"Our athletics department introduced the mark a short time ago," Deby Samuels, Lipscomb's vice president for university communicationand marketing, said in a prepared statement. "While it was one that we felt we had the right to use, when contacted by another school about the mark we chose to simply return to using the word Lipscomb."
Branded apparel and gear featuring "LU" will be sold until supplies run out, said Kim Chaudoin, assistant vice president of communication and marketing. As old supplies are depleted, a different logo will be slipped in. "LU" signs around Lipscomb's campus will be phased out over time.
Officials from both universities said the matter was handled without tension.
"It was very cordial and there was certainly no animus or ill feelings," Corry said. He added that the issue was resolved, as far as Liberty was concerned.
"Lipscomb University is bigger than a logo and is a name and an institution that is unique," Samuels said. "This is not a significant moment in the overall operation of our institution."
Trademark law centers around the potential that customers would be confused, according to Nashville lawyer and Vanderbilt University Law School adjunct professor Rick Sanders. That Liberty and Lipscomb are both Christian universities in the same part of the country could heighten the risk that someone would confuse the two LUs.
University of Tennessee fans probably don't need to worry about a similar challenge from the other UT, the University of Texas, Sanders said.
The fact that both schools have simultaneously used "UT" for such a long time lowers the risk of a legal issue.
"At this stage they've been living together so long that the public has learned to mentally distinguish them," Sanders said.