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U of T gets movie blues
By Ian Ross
The University of Toronto has taken the offensive against Paramount Pictures in a gridiron battle with a legal twist.
Varsity Blues, a motion picture distributed by Paramount, has angered officials at the university who hold the Canadian registered trademark of "Varsity Blues" for their intercollegiate athletics department, said Kyle Winters, director of community relations and marketing for U of T.
Winters said the university has contacted Paramount on their disapproval of the movie's namesake and both sides are currently in discussions about whether the next stage should be court or a settlement. "Currently our lawyers are communicating with Paramount," he said.
Blaize Noto, executive vice-president of publicity at Paramount Pictures, confirmed U of T has expressed displeasure over the name Varsity Blues but refused to comment further. "We are looking into it," he said.
The issue came to light five weeks ago when officials at the university noticed promotion for the movie's Jan. 15 opening in Canada, Winters said. He said before the date of the premiere, the legal wheels had already been set in motion.
"They are probably concerned that the movie will injure the reputation of the team," said Christopher DuVernet of the Toronto law firm DeVernet and Stewart. "People may think less of the team after seeing the movie."
A former assistant professor at Western, DuVernet suspected U of T may not have an easy case since the university did not immediately lodge a court injunction to stop promotion and distribution of the motion picture. Financial compensation may be the best alternative for U of T to pursue, he said.
Winters said the university has held the registered trademark for the name in Canada since 1984. While the copyright does not extend into the United States, he pointed out the motion picture industry works in an international market.
DuVernet, an expert in the field of trademark law, said the main issue in debate is the possible confusion amongst movie patrons to distinguish U of T from a fictitious high school football team.
"An identity is a valuable asset for many companies. It is what distinguishes products in the marketplace."
The head coach of the Varsity Blues football team, Bob Laycoe, was unable to comment on the issue citing instructions from the university's lawyers.