Royalty agreement sparks debate over Cloquet's lumberjack logo
A routine contract renewal with Walmart to sell lumberjack apparel turned into a much deeper discussion with Cloquet Sporting Goods about royalties and their business logo.
What started as a discussion about apparel royalties between the Cloquet School District and Walmart, turned into a broader investigation of business use of the district's lumberjack logo.
At its regular meeting Monday, March 9, the Cloquet School Board voted to accept a new contract with Cotton Gallery to license the lumberjack logo and sell apparel featuring the lumberjack at Walmart. The school district will receive 10% royalties, up from 8% with the previous contract. From 2012-17, the district received about $1,997.52 from the licensing agreement, said Superintendent Michael Cary.
However, at the Monday, Feb. 24 work session, the school board asked for more information about Cloquet Sporting Goods using the lumberjack logo and whether the district should put a similar licensing agreement in place with that business.
Cary and CHS Principal Steve Battaglia met with owner Paul Morton on Friday, March 6 to discuss Morton's possible use of the logo. Morton and his wife, Bree, own the business, which is set to open soon. The store will sell new and used sporting equipment. They originally planned to use the lumberjack as their store logo, in addition to selling apparel bearing the likeness. They have been using it on their business Facebook page for several weeks.
Morton agreed to pay 10% royalties to the school district to license the logo and use it on apparel, Cary said. Furthermore, Morton offered to sell unsold apparel from school district fundraisers on behalf of the district at his store.
However, a formal agreement with Morton has not been drafted yet. Morton said he contacted every school in Carlton County to see if they might be interested in having their school apparel sold at Cloquet Sporting Goods in the future. To date, only Cloquet School District responded.
Morton attended the board work session Tuesday, March 9 to address any questions or concerns the board members had.
Board member Jim Crowley said he felt comfortable accepting a contract for the district to receive 10% royalties from Morton and move forward.
Nate Sandman, board clerk, said he had some concerns about Morton's use of the school logo as his business logo.
Morton said he graduated from Cloquet High School, and his objective in using the lumberjack to represent his business is to support the school, as well as to keep sports gear and equipment affordable for families.
“I went to school here. I love the logo,” Morton said. “I want to be able to honor that.”
He said he understands school board members may have concerns, and he is willing to support their decision.
The Mortons also own Nu Luxe Salon, which has contributed to the community in a variety of ways from donating more than 300 pairs of shoes to children, giving free haircuts to children and renting a bus to take residents to the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton girls state championship hockey game. Morton picked up the tab when only 30 people signed up for the bus, he said.
District leaders agreed that the couple are great contributors to local education.
“Paul has been very supportive of our schools,” Cary said.
However, Sandman said he worries that Cloquet Sporting Goods' use of the lumberjack would send mixed messages to community members, and he is not comfortable allowing Morton to use it to represent the business.
“Do you think the community will respond to your business if it does not have the lumberjack logo?” Sandman asked. “When I first saw it out there with the logo, it told me it was the official school store of the district.”
Morton decided to remove the lumberjack from the Cloquet Sporting Goods logo.
“I’ll make it easy for you, I will not use it for my business logo,” Morton told the board.
The situation caused school district leaders to look into whether they have a trademark for the lumberjack or can get one. Cary said the district has reached out to an attorney for assistance. From what Cary could find, the logo was created for Cloquet Public Schools with the help of David Wait, a junior high art teacher.
“(In) everything we could find, the lumberjack was created to be used by the school,” Cary said. “We wanted to be sure if we were trademarking something, we were not trademarking someone else's property.”