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Published: Saturday, 5/1/2010

Panther caged

WHITMER High School's panther is nothing the University of Pittsburgh need roar about. The Toledo school's panther logo does resemble the university's. But the Whitmer cat is homegrown and represents no threat to the Pitt panther.

When Pitt discovered that Whitmer, about 250 miles away, was using a similar panther emblem, it fired off a cease-and-desist order to Washington Local Schools. That's a problem, since Whitmer's new football stadium includes a huge panther logo on the artificial-turf field.

The logo is sealed into Whitmer's basketball court. The panther head appears on billboards and uniforms, and in Whitmer's Wikipedia entry.

Professional and collegiate sports teams have a right to protect what they trademark and license to promote their programs. Using protected sports images without explicit permission is illegal, as it should be.

But high schools and their sports teams have a long history of imitating what works at the pro and college levels. They borrow colors and lettering, adapt fight songs, and use logos similar to those seen in bigger venues.

In response to Pitt's trademark claims, Whitmer says it will scratch the panther likeness from its Web site, uniforms, helmets, posters, and stationery.

But Whitmer is asking the university for a reasonable exemption from the demand that it remove the logo from places where the job would be cost-prohibitive, including its football field and basketball court.

Come on, Pitt. This dispute isn't worth a cat fight.

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