That’s what I called out to this guy at the College World Series in Omaha last week, after "down in front," received no reaction. That’s right, "Sit Down Michigan State," obtained the desired result, but not without a somewhat funny look back.
When he turned around I realized the funny look wasn’t simply a reaction to interrupting his important cell phone call at the first pitch of the game, it related to my assumption that the initials MS + a green/white trade dress = the Michigan State Spartans.
Well, excuse me, I am from Big Ten Country, so a logical assumption on my part, or so I thought. Problem is, the front facing rear of his cap clearly read "Lions," not "Spartans". As a result, I was left rather confused, even in a trademark sense, or you might say, especially in a trademark sense.
So, my first thought upon returning to my laptop at the end of the hot day, all ready to clear up this post-sale trademark confusion was, Mississippi State? Nope, wrong color scheme (maroon and white), and wrong mascot (bulldog). How about, Murray State? Nope, wrong color scheme and mascot, again.
After more than a little digging online, it appears MS + green/white trade dress = Missouri Southern. But wait, Missouri Southern State University owns and has federally registered the acronym MSSU, not MS. Could this be an unrecognized branding truncation problem, given Michigan State’s rights in MSU?
Given the growing recognition and protection of college color schemes in combination with some other indicia that identifies the school, I still see Michigan State, not Missouri Southern, sorry Lions.
For a fairly recent case that recognizes trademark protection in even unregistered collegiate color schemes when the context of the use includes some other indicia of the school, check out LSU v. Smack Apparel.