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Buzz about a logo: Edina Hornet on pause after use dispute

The original creator of the logo has sent a cease and desist letter to the school district.

LITCHFIELD, Minn. — A former Edina grad has just kicked a hornet's nest. Michael Otto came up with the school's mascot, the hornet, 40 years ago.

In an effort to unite what was then known was Edina East and Edina West, then 24-year-old Otto, sketched out what he saw in his heart.

"I found out the Edina booster club, not the school district, the booster club was running a contest, there were a 168 entries," he said.

Of the 168, Otto's green, white and gold hornet won over the student body.

As an alum of Edina, Otto said he felt a tremendous sense of pride, and a desire to protect the logo he felt so connected to.

So in 1981 he copyrighted the Edina Hornet.

"I just didn't want it misused by other schools so fourth," he explained. "And I certainly didn't want other high schools or universities that happened to be the hornets to go, 'that's a cool logo, lets make that our logo too.'"

And for the past 35 years or so things worked out. Anytime anyone wanted to use the logo somewhere, they'd simply ask.

"[It was a ] case-by-case basis," Otto said. "It would usually take less than a week to turn around. I'd say simply send me a letter saying exactly what you're going to do and I'll send you a letter of permission."

Otto added that things started going south, about five years ago.

"Edina did not give me a choice but to give a cease and desist, because of what they did with the logo," he said. "They sold it to a company out of Arizona. They gave permission to [them], received money for using the logo on all types of items."

The Edina Public Schools sent a statement in response to this, and their potential problem of having to find a new logo.

"Edina Public Schools is exploring options for its Hornet logo image after receiving a cease and desist letter in March from Michael Otto, the creator of the current Hornet logo copyright. The copyright agreement, signed in 1981, gives Otto rights to determine how the image is used and which vendors the District may contract with for uniforms and spirit wear that include the Hornet logo. Since receiving the cease and desist letter, the District has attempted  to negotiate a more permissive agreement or obtain full rights to the copyright. So far, these attempts have been unsuccessful."

The current Hornet image was adopted by EPS in 1981, following a contest to create a Hornet logo to represent the recently united Edina East and West high schools. Otto, a former student, won the contest and registered the logo with the U.S. Copyright Office. Otto provided EHS rights to use the logo within the limitations noted above.

While the district works on a plan for how it may be able to continue to use the existing Hornet logo, the widely-known Edina block-style E will be used temporarily as the District's logo image on any new apparel and uniforms. Attempts at securing a more permissive agreement have been met with such resistance by Otto, that the district is also working with a graphic design firm to create a new Hornet design. This new Hornet image may be used to replace the current logo, if necessary, or could be a secondary image for use on specific apparel given the limited use of the current logo.

If a newly designed Hornet image becomes a necessity, the community will be invited to participate in the selection of the new image. The Hornet mascot and school colors will remain unchanged.

"This is obviously not our first choice of direction, as we value our logo and the emotional ties to it. However, our community routinely asks for more access to the Edina Hornet image and we want to be able to use the logo freely within our district and provide access to those in the community that identify as proud Edina Hornets," said Troy Stein, EHS athletic director. "The district has not been able to accommodate many requests for use of the Hornet image due to the trademark's restrictive terms."

Otto said people have been quick to say that they believe Otto is in it to get paid.

"That's why it's been so important for me to let everyone know, this isn't about money, that's why everyone's confused," Otto said. He added that in the past years, he has never been paid by the school. He said he has received a couple of the items that the logos had been used on. For example, a couple of pins, and a patch. 

He said it's not about the dollars, but the principle.

"I believe that that's not only what our educational system should do, but especially Edina High School that takes pride in the education that they give to students," Otto said. "Aren't we teaching honesty? Aren't we teaching integrity? Aren't we teaching that we need to respect he laws of our country? And copyright laws are just as important as any other laws."

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