Frequently Asked Questions
In this FAQ you will find answers to commonly asked questions about identity and branding issues at the University of Michigan. At the end of the FAQ is a list of definitions comprising words used in these Guidelines. You’ll also find handy links where you can get more information about identity guidelines and usage.
As an academic institution, why should I care about branding? Isn’t that for commercial enterprises?
Why should my academic unit adopt the Block M in its logo—isn’t it an athletic mark?
My department wants create a unique mark of our own. Is that OK?
Can I use the Block M to identify my department or unit but alter it to be a little different and set us apart?
My unit has always used the Seal as our symbol. Can we continue to use it?
My unit still has a supply of business cards and stationery with our previous logo but would like to adopt the new wordmark. Do we have to switch now?
Can students or student groups use the Block M or Seal?
I see that the U-M has registered one mark that allows something to be put over the the Block M. Why is this mark ok but not other marks that other departments may want to use?
A corporate vendor has provided many products for use in my department at a favorable cost. In exchange, the provider wants us to let them use the University name and logo on their website and in their marketing materials. Can we?
A vendor gave our unit a great price on a product and now wants to produce marketing materials that quote our department chair saying that he and the University chose this product above all others because of its superior quality. Can we do that for them?
If I have questions or need approvals, is there one person I can contact for a quick response?
Am I required to use the images and word marks established as the “official” marks of the University? Will there be penalties for not following the guidelines?
What are the and ® notations that appear with the University name and logos?
What is trademark registration?
What is trademark infringement?
When do you need permission to use the University marks?
When do you need a license to use the University marks?
What happens if unlicensed merchandise is found in the marketplace?
Are royalties always required for internal use?
If I am a member of a registered student organization and I order items that are not going to be resold, do I still have to select a licensed manufacturer?
How can I tell if the product I am purchasing is a licensed product?
Which products can be licensed?
Can my business use the University’s name and logos?
Are royalties always required for internal use?
Definitions of commonly used words
Q: As an academic institution, why should I care about branding? Isn’t that for commercial enterprises?
A: “Branding” is just the popularized term for building a strong identity. Any organization must build an identity that represents the desirable personality and characteristics that people will associate with it. A strong identity gives the public a set of instant positive images that build confidence, trust, and respect. One very important way to build a strong identity is through consistent use of visual images and a recognizable look and feel to published materials.
Q: Why should my academic unit adopt the Block M in its logo—isn’t it an athletic mark?
A: The Block M is one of the two most highly recognized marks for any college or university in the nation, ranked at the top with Notre Dame. One reason it is so widely recognized is the great sports tradition the University of Michigan has enjoyed. After years of use and recognition, however, it has become intertwined with the University’s entire identity and is one of the University’s most valuable assets. Its consistent use by athletics and academics alike will only increase its strength and value as a visual identifier of all that this University stands for.
Q: My department wants create a unique mark of our own. Is that OK?
A: When organizations adopt a new mark they typically spend millions of dollars over many years to build the desired associations between the personality and offerings of the organization and the visual identity. We already have a powerful symbol that evokes images of hope, promise, quality, confidence, trust, and respect—and it will cost you nothing to adopt it! The Block M will create a positive image for your unit and, by using it in a consistent manner, you strengthen its qualities of power and influence as well. In contrast, having multiple, competing logos for departments and programs can contribute to confusion and dilution of the University’s visual identity.
Q: Can I use the Block M to identify my department or unit but alter it to be a little different and set us apart?
A: No. The value of the Block M as a clear symbol of the University’s identity will diminish if it is not used in a consistent manner. Furthermore, as a registered trademark, modifications to the Block M are not allowed. It should not be altered in any way. Full guidelines for appropriate use are found on this site.
Q: My unit has always used the Seal as our symbol. Can we continue to use it?
A: Beginning in 2012, the Seal will be reserved for presidential and regental purposes only (as well as for official documents such as diplomas). Letterhead and business cards with the Seal will no longer be available for new orders, but units may continue to use their existing letterhead if desired. The Seal is not an instantly recognizable symbol in the public eye and tends to resemble many other college seals. It therefore does not carry the same identity strength as the Block M, and will not be as helpful when branding and identity are critical.
Q: My unit still has a supply of business cards and stationery with our previous logo but would like to adopt the new wordmark. Do we have to switch now?
A: No, we encourage you to use your existing supply before ordering materials with the wordmark.
Q: Can students or student groups use the Block M?
A: MSA-registered organizations that are considered “sponsored student organizations” may use the Block M with permission from their sponsoring unit, in accordance with U-M Identity Guidelines, and may refer to themselves as “University of Michigan” or “Michigan” organizations. Voluntary student organizations may also refer to themselves as "Michigan" organizations or as organizations "at the University of Michigan" but may not use any University trademarks or logos. Student organizations not registered with MSA may not use University trademarks or logos or reference the University in the name of their organization or in any of their materials (whether print or online).
Student business cards with the U-M marks are available at all Ann Arbor FedEx/Kinko’s locations, and online through U-M Printing Services. Students may use the wordmark on business cards if they go through an approved vendor; contact FedEx/Kinko’s or order online through U-M Printing Services. Students may not create their own business cards using U-M marks.
Q: A corporate vendor has provided many products for use in my department at a favorable cost.
In exchange, the provider wants us to let them use the University name and logo on their website and in their marketing materials. Can we?
A: We recognize the value that our vendors offer us. We are willing to have them identify the University of Michigan as a client and describe in factual terms the product or service provided. We do not allow marketing by outside organizations using the Block M or other University logos.
Q: I see that the U-M has registered one mark that allows something to be put
over the the Block M. Why is this mark OK but not other marks that other departments may want to use?
A: The “split block M,” as we call the version that has the word “Michigan” written across the M, is offered as an alternative here only because it was registered and in use prior to these guidelines. It should be used sparingly and only in settings where we need to graphically distinguish ourselves from another university that uses some form of an "M" as their logo, such as the University of Minnesota. This version of the Block M should not be used as a department logo, or on newsletters or web banners created in the future.
Q: A vendor gave our unit a great price on a product and now wants to produce marketing materials that quote our department chair saying that
he and the University chose this product above all others because of its superior quality. Can we do that for them?
A: University employees may not endorse products or services in a way that makes it appear the University is providing the endorsement. Any statements about the use of the product or service must be purely factual and not imply a preference. Individual employees may provide endorsements as statements of their own opinion if they add a clear disclaimer that the opinion is not that of the University, nor made in the employee’s official capacity on behalf of the University.
Q: If I have questions or need approvals, is there one person I can contact for a quick response?
A: If you have questions about using a logo on commercial goods, send them to email@example.com. All other questions or requests can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and they will be addressed promptly. The umlogos review committee comprises a cross-campus group of marketing professionals, attorneys, and administrators who can help you with the approval process, usually within 24 hours.
Q: Am I required to use the images and wordmarks established as the “official” marks of the University? Will there be penalties
for not following the guidelines?
A: Although you are not required to use the official marks, it will be to your advantage to do so. The penalty will be the loss of opportunity to capitalize on brand strength. The strength of the images grows through consistent use, which benefits all departments and schools in the University. There are also financial savings with the use of the wordmark, including low-cost stationery ordering through Michigan Business Services’ printing services. They are able to offer cost savings based on the volume of orders throughout the University.
Q: What are the and ® notations that appear with the University name and logos?
A: The symbol indicates that the word, symbol, or design it is placed next to is a trademark. The ® symbol indicates that the trademark is federally registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. It is important that these designations are used correctly, as they empower the University’s enforcement efforts.
Q: What is trademark registration?
A: It is not necessary to register a trademark or service mark to prevent others from infringing upon the trademark, but registration helps us to limit any infringement and to allow the University to protect its property rights. Trademarks generally become protected as soon as they are adopted by an organization and used in commerce, even before registration. Goods or services sold exclusively within one state often are subject to state registration. More commonly, the fact that goods and services are sold through interstate commerce often entitles the trademark to federal registration. With federal registration, the registrant is presumed to be entitled to use the trademark throughout the United States for the goods or services for which the trademark is registered. Other organizations attempting to register the trademark will not be entitled to do so.
Q: What is trademark infringement?
A: Trademark infringement occurs when one company or organization uses the trademark of another to promote its goods and services. The ultimate issue in infringement cases is whether the public is likely to be confused about the source of the goods or services offered. Determining whether infringement has occurred requires a look at how the trademark is used, and the goods or services that were offered and how closely tied they are in the public mind to the original goods and services.
Q: When do you need permission to use the University marks?
A: Anyone who uses the University name or marks for any purpose other than official University business will require prior written permission (please see the permissions guide for contact information).
Q: When do you need a license to use the University marks?
A: Manufacturers wishing to produce products bearing the University marks are required to hold a license. Hundreds of companies are currently licensed with the University to produce in various product categories. Contact the U-M Licensing Office for more information.
Q: Which products can be licensed?
A: Most products will be considered for a license. However, the University reserves the right to refuse a license to any person, organization, or company for any particular product. The University marks are not to be associated with and no license will be granted for the marketing of alcohol, tobacco, controlled substances, sexually oriented products, gambling, or firearms. The University marks will not be licensed for use in association with other marks in designs that are deemed to be degrading, demeaning, or reflect poorly on the University. The University will not license products that do not meet minimum standards of quality and/or good taste or are judged to be dangerous or carry high product liability risks.
Q: How can I tell if the product I am purchasing is a licensed product?
A: Look for the “Officially Licensed Collegiate Products” label. All licensed collegiate products are marked with this seal, either on the item’s hang tag or on the packaging.
Q: What happens if unlicensed merchandise is found in the marketplace?
A: Merchandise produced without written authorization may be considered “counterfeit” and subject to all available legal remedies, including seizure of the merchandise.
Q: If I am a member of a registered student organization and I order items that are not going to be resold,
do I still have to select a licensed manufacturer?
A: Yes. All purchases bearing any University Mark must be made from a manufacturer licensed by the University. These select licensees are familiar with the approval process, quality standards and royalty accounting. This is true even if purchases are exempt from royalties. A complete list of licensed manufacturers is available through the Trademark Licensing Office.
Q: Are royalties always required for internal use?
A: If the University’s name/marks are utilized on a product that is being resold, then royalties are due.
If the product is being distributed at no cost and does not include any commercial sponsors or endorsements, then the royalty fee will be waived. Note: These are general guidelines and each case is reviewed for royalty exemption at the time the internal request is submitted to the Trademark Licensing office.
Q: Can my business use the University’s name and logos?
A: Commercial use of the University’s marks is restricted to companies that participate in a corporate sponsorship program through the Athletic department.
Definitions of commonly used words
Trademark — (or simply “mark”) is a word, phrase, group of letters, symbol,
or design that are used by an organization to identify their products or services and distinguish them from those of others.
Trademarks are used to prevent confusion by consumers regarding the source of origin of the goods or services.
A mark used in the offering, promotion or sale of services is referred to as a “service mark.” The same legal rules generally apply to the adoption, use, protection and enforcement of both service marks and trademarks.
Infringement — Unauthorized use of a trademark that belongs to another, or use of a trademark so similar to that of another as to cause the likelihood of confusion in the minds of the public as to the source affiliation or sponsorship of the product or service.
License Agreement — A royalty bearing contract granting permission to a licensee to produce specific products bearing the trademarks of the licensor.
Licensee — A person or organization who has been granted by the licensor the right, under certain conditions, to use licensors trademarks.
Licensor — One who contracts to allow another to use licensor’s property (trademark) in exchange for payment, usually royalty as a percent of sales.
Registered mark — a trademark that has been registered with the Federal government at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Federal registration provides additional protection against the remedies for trademark infringement. Unregistered trademarks are normally designated as trademarks by the notation “TM” and service marks with the designation of “SM.” Federally registered trademarks should include the notation that they are registered, which is the “Circle R.”
- Need more information on how to use the logos and wordmarks on promotional materials? Contact Michigan Marketing & Design by email, call 734-764-9270, or visit their website.
- To order stationery products online through Printing Services, please visit Michigan Business Services’ online ordering page.
- For images of campus for use in print and electronic materials, please visit the Photo Services website.
- For general copyright questions, please see the Copyrights at the University of Michigan web page.
- To find out more about rules and regulations regarding NCAA compliance, please see the Compliance Services Office web page.