September '15

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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2 0 1 5 S E P T E M B E R P R I N T W E A R || 41 organizations and Affinity Consultants are quite zealous about pursuing and suing those who create Greek-themed merchan- dise without being licensed to do so. While some decorators have and do ask how an organization can copyright a certain com- bination of Greek letters, every time that question has been asked in a court of law, the courts have upheld the right of frater- nities and sororities to do so. In several rul- ings, the courts have stated that the combi- nations of letters that signify sororities and fraternities are "distinctive and predictable marks." The court has also concluded that a Greek organization's various wordmarks and symbols are entitled to protection be- cause they capitalize on a customer's affec- tion for a particular Greek organization. The link to the specific organization, the argument runs, is the "trigger for the sale." PRODUCT REQUIREMENTS One thing to keep in mind is that many Greek organizations have specific stan- dards for how their wordmarks and sym- bols can be used. The explosion in appar- el and other items decorated with Greek letters has also caused an explosion in regulations about how those items can be decorated and how the letters can be used and placed. Sororities and fraternities may have specific colors that must be used on their merchandise, and the letters used to symbolize their houses must be Greek let- ters, not letters from the English alphabet. One way to ensure your products meet the standards of the organizations to which you wish to sell would be to contact those organizations. Membership in a fraternity or sorority has a unique meaning to those who are involved with the organizations, and the clothing they wear or the items they display to show membership are important to them. To successfully compete in this market, you need to cultivate an understanding of what it means to wear and display Greek letters and the rules and regulations that each organization has about how this is done. Products are not only required to pass review by Affinity Consultants, but may face further review by the individual house or organization as well. If the whole process of getting licensed and meeting the requirements for Greek apparel and other items seems arduous, you should keep in mind that you don't ac- tually have to create the items you sell to sorority and fraternity members yourself. All you have to do is get them from a li- censed distributor. As long as the company has created the garments or other licensed items, they can distribute their merchandise to you and you can sell it. The one caveat here is that you can't embellish or change the merchandise in any way. Regardless, if you do decorate yourself or act as a distrib- utor, the Greek market is certainly a niche worth considering. If you are in a college town, it's one of the best ways to set yourself apart from the competition and potentially maximize your profits at the same time. Many Greek organizations have specific standards for how their wordmarks and symbols can be used. Most designs require approval from the organizations. (Image courtesy Sheila Burks, After 5 Printing and Graphics and Rhinestone Queen)

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