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U of Ill., chief group reach trademark settlement

Published: Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013 5:12 p.m. CST
Caption
(AP file photo)
University of Illinois mascot Chief Illiniwek performs Feb. 21, 2007, for the last time during an Illinois basketball game in Champaign. The university and a group dedicated to the former mascot have reached a settlement over the use of the symbol's name and image.

URBANA – A deal reached this week between the University of Illinois and a group dedicated to honoring the university's former mascot, Chief Illiniwek, bars the organization from most uses of the symbol's name and official logo.

The university threatened legal action in 2010 against the Honor the Chief Society over events it held where someone dressed up and performed as the chief.

Those performances and memorabilia sold under the Chief Illiniwek name on the group's website violated university trademarks, the university said. The university stopped using the mascot in 2007 under NCAA pressure.

The deal makes clear what is permissible and what isn't, university spokeswoman Robin Kaler said Wednesday.

"I think the most important thing is that it helps everyone involved better understand where the lines are," she told The News-Gazette in Champaign (http://bit.ly/1hYSFXL).

Society co-founder Roger Huddleston said he's relieved to have the settlement finalized.

"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.

Under the deal, Honor the Chief can still hold events that include "a performance in the nature of a choreographed tribute to the dance" performed by the chief mascot.

But the group has to put disclaimer on its website and promotional materials making clear it isn't connected to the university, can't use the name Chief Illiniwek or the trademarked image and can't refer to anyone as the next Chief Illiniwek. The group held several "The Next Dance" events in which someone dressed as the chief danced for fans.

The university was under NCAA sanctions over the chief when it dropped the mascot in 2007. Some American Indians and others claimed the chief was a demeaning portrayal of Native American culture. Chief fans maintained the costumed portrayal and dances performed at sports events and elsewhere were a respectful tribute.

The university's teams are still called the Fighting Illini but no mascot has been chosen to replace the chief.

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Information from: The News-Gazette, http://www.news-gazette.com

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Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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