For $54.99, on the website www.prepsportswear.com, you can buy a maroon Miami Springs Senior High School Golden Hawks hooded sweatshirt, complete with an image of Golden Hawk. Or you can buy a MAST Academy Makos hat, in navy for $21.99 . Or even, for $19.99, a white Avocado Aces t-shirt, for the elementary school in Homestead.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) has a big problem with this. The Seattle-based retailer, which sells prep and some college sportswear for hundreds of schools around the country, doesn't have permission to use the district's logos and likenesses, MDCPS alleges. So now, after a school board discussion and vote earlier this year, the district is suing.
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"The School Board trademarks are loved and recognized by students and families of students who have attended Miami-Dade County schools," the board said in the case complaint, filed on June 30. "More so than most commercial trademarks, the public feels a deep personal connection with these marks."
The complaint goes on to assert that MDCPS has indeed already registered several trademarks and is "seeking to expand their use to generate revenues to help its schools in providing children and young adults with needed educational services." By selling apparel using unlicensed Miami-Dade schools' logos, Prep Sportswear, the suit alleges, is both denying the district revenue and deceiving customers who would naturally think the products are actually affiliated with Miami-Dade schools—especially because the shirts and hats for sale show up on a page labelled, for example, "MAST Academy Makos Apparel Store." The website does include a disclaimer expressing its lack of affiliation, but, as the complaint points out, it's tiny and buried at the bottom of the page.
"The harm is particularly egregious since it exploits the desire of parents and relatives of children who are misled into thinking that hey are helping the school through their purchases," the complaint alleges. "The harm to the schools and to the trust of parents in making future purchases is severe."
Prep Sportswear did not respond to New Times' request for comment, and a spokesman for the district said he couldn't comment because the matter is in litigation. The company has previously been sued for similar alleged violations, including by Belen Jesuit earlier in June.