School To Stop Using Dodge-Like Ram's Head Logo

Lake Mary High School in Lake Mary, Fla., has said it will stop using its ram's head logo by summer. Trouble is the logo is identical to Chrysler's Dodge Ram and the automaker threatened to sue. Lake Mary Principal Michael Kotkin says his bosses at the county level felt they couldn't win the case.

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And now to another auto recall story, but one that doesn't have anything to do with public safety. Chrysler has ordered the recall of its logo from the notebooks, uniforms, even the gym floor of a suburban Florida high school. The Lake Mary High Rams have been using the Dodge Ram logo for years. And last November, Chrysler took note. The automaker was not pleased. Chrysler's lawyers called on the school to cease and desist. They threatened to sue the school district for trademark infringement. And last week, the Seminole County school board agreed to stop using the Dodge Ram logo by summer.

Lake Mary High's principal is Michael Kotkin. He joins us now. Principal Kotkin, how did this whole dispute over your logo start?

Mr. MICHAEL KOTKIN (Principal, Lake Mary High School): Actually, it started with a phone call that I received one day, mid-November 2009. I spoke to a gentleman up in Detroit, Michigan, who - to tell you the truth - actually, when I first got the phone call, I thought it might've been a joke.

BLOCK: Oh, really?

Mr. KOTKIN: I did. Googling, of course, his phone number. Seeing that he was in fact from Detroit, I took his stance quite seriously. The gentleman on the other line told me that he had received an anonymous tip and this tip included photographs of our cheerleaders, our state championship golf teams, both boys and girls. Those were the ones he had named specifically.

BLOCK: And the logo, I've seen it, it is exactly the same. You just decided: We're not going to fight this.

Mr. KOTKIN: Well, it's not a case of not wanting to fight. My boss, if you will, at the county level, as well as our county lawyers, felt that this wasn't something that we would be able to win, quite frankly. And the school resources being directed towards law rather than to the students, rather than to the educating of our students, really doesn't seem to make good sense.

BLOCK: Well, you have until June 15th to get rid of all of the old logo. So, what does that mean for you?

Mr. KOTKIN: Well, it actually - it means a lot. If you were to walk around, you would see that particular ram on benches where my students sit outside - on the gym floor. You would also find it just randomly throughout campus from uniforms to backpacks to, you know, planners, you name it - it's everywhere.

BLOCK: Any idea how much that's going to cost to get rid of the old logo?

Mr. KOTKIN: I couldn't even venture a guess, but it's going to be quite expensive, as you can imagine, because when you look at a gym floor, to replace a gym floor is going to be an easy $15,000. Then you get right down to letterhead. So after a while you start to kind of do math in your head as you're walking around, it could become almost nauseating.

BLOCK: So, no talk of a Chrysler boycott from the kids at Lake Mary High?

Mr. KOTKIN: You know, it's funny because some of the kids have come up to me, hey, Mr. Kotkin, I was going to get a truck for my birthday. I'm going to get a truck for Christmas. I can tell you what I'm not going to buy. And I can tell you I've heard that a lot.

BLOCK: You have?

Mr. KOTKIN: Absolutely. The kids have said to me, Mr. Kotkin, you know, I'll never get this or I'll never get that. I don't say a whole lot. These are certainly their choice, but the kids are really holding onto it. So from selfishly I say it's really galvanized my school and I love it.

BLOCK: Well, Lake Mary High is going to be unveiling a new logo. What does it look like? And are you sure you're not going to be stepping on, you know, the St. Louis Rams' toes now?

Mr. KOTKIN: You know, a ram is a ram. I don't know how many different ways you can make a ram look like a ram and then it's not a billy goat or a moose or a -whatever it is. But you're right. I've got to be careful about not only the St. Louis Rams, what about the Naval Academy? What about Colorado State? And all these other people that have a ram that this looks like ours, no, this one looks like mine.

Initially I was going to unveil it actually on Thursday of this week. But I have since decided, you know what? Let me slow down. Let me really look at this and make sure this is something that not only will this generation of kids like, but for generations to come. This is something that everyone will be proud of.

BLOCK: Michael Kotkin is principal of Lake Mary High School in Lake Mary, Florida, that's just north of Orlando. Thanks very much for talking with us.

Mr. KOTKIN: Thank you very much.

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