Every year in October, students can be seen sporting and selling various styles of Hobo Day T-shirts with assorted slogans alluding to the occasion. But what many do not realize is that, in some cases, their T-shirts are considered illegal by the university.
Hobo Day Grand Pooba Megan Schiferl is cracking down on T-shirts this year. She does not want “trashy” shirts to be associated with Hobo Day.
“(The) University Relations office holds the Hobo Day trademark. There are problems every year with the shirts,” said Schiferl.
T-shirts can be approved by the Hobo Day Committee, and then they are legal to be sold. A couple of clubs on campus like the Dairy Club and one of the engineering clubs have gotten approval to use the Hobo Day trademark.
Schiferl said the University Program Council finds out about the T-shirts from Facebook.
“Some T-shirts were distributed in The Union, and we took them and held them in the UPC office until we could work something out to make both parties happy,” said Schiferl.
But in some instances, the solution is not that easy. A cease-and-desist order was sent to the HOBO SHIRTS 2009 Facebook group. Matthew Anderson, creator of the group, said SDSU claimed they were infringing upon the Hobo Day trademark, even though the T-shirts said, “Hobo D*ze” and were a parody of college life.
Anderson said they defended themselves but they didn’t have the time or money to continue the lawsuit. The phrase was removed from the T-shirts, but they continued selling with another design.
“It doesn’t matter what they do, people are going to make the shirts and they make a good profit,” said Megan Kahler, a senior advertising major. “Instead of the university trying to prohibit, maybe they should ask these people for their ideas and give them part of the profit.”
Kahler said that she always finds out about the shirts from Facebook and that she has bought them from the same person every year.
“Once the students own the shirts there is nothing we can do. People aren’t aware that there is a trademark, and that’s why problems arise,” said Schiferl.
Kahler said they discussed the Hobo Day shirt issue in one of her classes, and they understand that branding and trademarks are important. However, she said that the university should think of better ways to find what students want for their shirts.
“Most T-shirts are just taking ‘Hobo Days’ off their shirts, period. They call it State Homecoming, and SDSU can’t do anything about that,” said Kahler.
Several Facebook groups have not run into any problems with the University since they did not use the words “Hobo Day” on the shirts.
Schiferl said the UPC is selling Hobo Days T-shirts for $15 with the slogan “Hobos Save the Day.” Buttons are available for $1 each.