Licensed School Apparel

  • Knox County Schools has the ability to make money off retail merchandise bearing its brands and logos under an agreement with a national collegiate licensing agency. The contract means only manufacturers licensed by Indianapolis-based Strategic Marketing Affiliates will be able to sell items with school trademarks.

    Every merchant and retailer in the county and state has received notification from the licensing agency about the new program.
    Under the agreement, the district will receive 80 percent of royalties. That means the manufacturer would pay up to 10 percent of the wholesale value of a garment. Of this amount, the licensing firm would keep 20 percent and the schools would get the remainder.

Licensing FAQs

  • Why is the school system doing this?
    Currently, there are large retail and other for-profit entities that are selling merchandise with our school logos on them. Having our school logos and identities licensed not only helps us realize financial royalties (like the University of Tennessee and others), it also protects our schools from inappropriate use of our name, logo, and likeness.

    How will this contract affect school support organizations or booster groups?
    School support groups (PTA, PTO, Booster Clubs, Foundations,etc.) will not pay a royalty fee on items produced for resale to their school community. In addition, all teams/clubs associated with our school will not pay any royalty fees on any items produced for their use, or for resale.

    Some schools may have to redesign their logos. Will this cost the schools a lot of money?
    The possible redesign of logos is could occur where schools are using trademarked logos owned by professional sports teams or colleges. The licensing company will first take our school logos and review/evaluate them in respect to their genuineness. In the instances where the logos are not found to be genuine and infringe on marks owned by other entities, SMA will notify the school district and ask for permission to begin the process of evaluating possible solutions. In most cases, the redesign will be a very slight modification to the logo.

    Do schools have to license their logos?
    We will begin with the licensing process for all Knox County high schools and middle schools. The need to further the process to include elementary schools will be evaluated as we go through the licensing experience.

    Will this limit the companies with which the schools can do business?
    The school district will work with SMA to establish the protocol for businesses wishing to become licensed to produce items for general resale, versus those businesses who only wish to produce items for internal use by school support organizations or school teams/clubs. In their proposal, SMA identified their standard practice of offering a Standard License to produce products for resale or for internal consumption within the school. They also have a Restricted License for vendors who only produce products for internal use within the school family. This process should not limit access to any business, but it will restrict their potential participation depending upon the type of license agreement they obtain.

    Is this licensing contract really necessary?
    As the market place continues to change where consumers are purchasing branded products featuring soft drinks, candy, cereals, colleges/universities, etc., there is a growing presence of Knox County school logo items in retail outlets.  Prior to the licensing program, the school district was not receiving revenue from the sale of most of these items using school logos and names. This contract allows the school district to manage the use of our brands in the marketplace with a legal instrument for enforcement.

    Aren’t you really just trying to make a buck?
    The school district does stand to gain financially from the sale of logo items as a result of this contract. These resources will help our schools enhance the education of our children. However, an equally important issue is the authorized use of the brands and logos owned by the citizens of Knox County. As stewards of community resources, the school district has an obligation to ensure that the images used for retail purposes are used properly and in good taste. Though most of the items are presently sold through large retail chains, the retail environment continues to evolve to include web-based and smaller businesses that make this a different issue in the coming years.

    Will this not adversely impact the small businesses with which the schools already do business?
    Many local printers are involved in producing products for internal use by teams, clubs, or school support organizations. Given the fact that these organizations and their product orders are exempt from the royalty fee structure, it should have no adverse impact on their ability to continue to produce these items.

    What will it cost the schools to license their logos?
    There is a cost associated with the federal registration process of trademarks. The school district will work with SMA to identify those costs and the viability of having multiple trademarked logos for each school.

    What will it cost a company to be able to market or manufacture school related items?
    Companies that wish to become a licensee under this program, and receive a Standard License, will pay a one-time fee of $100. Beyond that initial expense, there will be a 10% royalty on the wholesale price of any items produced for resale to the general public through retail outlets.

    Who will “police” these activities to ensure businesses are in compliance?
    Enforcement of the license will be a responsibility of SMA. Potential violations will be reported to SMA and SMA will take the necessary legal actions to protect the license.

    Who will see the financial gains, the school system or the individual schools?
    The individual school that appears on the licensed item that is sold receives the bulk of the proceeds paid to Knox County. Currently, individual schools are receiving over 87% of the royalty paid to the school district.  A small portion of the royalties are maintained at the central office to pay for system-wide promotional efforts such as signs.