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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Woodling

Don’t be deterred, kids

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No way of knowing for sure, but I hope I’m smarter than a fifth-grader … although maybe not as smart as Miss Cochrane’s bunch.

Jennifer Cochrane is a fifth-grade teacher at Cordley School, and I was delegated to serve as a Junior Achievement volunteer in her class last week.

Using the JA curriculum, I explained to her bright and inquisitive fifth-graders about job skills, resources, supply, demand and entrepreneurship, among other things.

But I didn’t tell them about Larry Sinks. I didn’t tell the Cordley fifth-graders how an entrepreneur can lose his shirt in the T-shirt business.

To be an entrepreneur, I told the class, you have to combine imagination, innovative thinking and management skills to start a business.

That’s what Sinks did. He found a niche that appealed mostly to Kansas University students. He marketed T-shirts — some inane, some brash, some risqué — and the students loved them.

Not a single one of Sinks’ T-shirts contained the words “Jayhawk” or “KU” or the logos licensed to the university and administered by Kansas Athletics Inc. But the T-shirts were blue and contained references that were clearly KU-oriented, and a jury ordered Sinks to pay $127,000 in damages.

Then a judge ruled Sinks had to pay an additional $650,000 in legal fees.

Finally, on Monday, we learned Sinks and KAI had settled out of court. Clearly, one of the terms of the agreement was for Sinks to cease and desist. He did. He shut his business down and agreed never to print T-shirts again.

Perhaps even worse, Sinks had to issue a public apology.

What else could he do? What would you do if you were ordered to cough up more than three-quarters of a million dollars because you were the entrepreneur of a small business and you ran afoul of a large corporation?

On the last day of his close-out sale, I ran into Sinks in front of his store on Massachusetts Street. The place was teeming with customers, and he confirmed business had been brisk.

So here was an entrepreneur who still had a demand for what he could supply, and yet he had to go out of business because of what, in my opinion, were loosely applied trademark restrictions.

Let me interject here that I’ve known Sinks since he was a little boy. His father, Lawrence, was a printer for the Journal-World, and we played together on the J-W softball team. So if you want to accuse me of prejudice, so be it.

On the flip side, I’m sure I’m not alone in believing KAI’s ogre-like appetite for the almighty dollar in the Sinks affair sent the wrong message. Instead of co-existing with Sinks, Kansas Athletics Inc. polarized town-gown relations while sending this message to future entrepreneurs: “Don’t mess with us.”

It’s also the wrong message to send to fifth-graders who someday may want to do more than simply sell lemonade on the street corner.

So here’s my advice to Brendan, Olivia, Lourdes, Lesly, Jazmyne, Brittney, Stephanie, Abby, Tari, Kameron, Corey, Tanner, Jazlyn, Emilynn, Blake and Azariah:

Be bold, be imaginative and be innovative. Don’t let what happened to Larry Sinks deter you.

Comments

minnhawk84 9 years, 2 months ago

Amen, Chuck. Squished like a bug, and for what end? The little guy takes it in the shorts, and another small business bites the dust, a business that made a lot of students and fans happy over a number of years. So much for pursuing the American Dream.......

kranny 9 years, 2 months ago

He received a fair trial by a jury of his peers, judgment was passed and a precedent was set before many others would've started walking the fine line and pushing a more dangerous precedent. I think we can all infer that "Kansas Swim Team" printed on a blue shirt crosses the line.

Phillbert 9 years, 2 months ago

Do you even read your own newspaper, Mr. Woodling? I suggest you do so, then you wouldn't have embarrassed yourself with this statement:

"Not a single one of Sinks’ T-shirts contained the words “Jayhawk” or “KU” or the logos licensed to the university and administered by Kansas Athletics Inc. "

That is blatantly untrue. And how do I know this? Because it was in the Lawrence Journal-World's editorial on March 30, 2010:

"Some of the T-shirt problems were clear: use of the Jayhawk emblem or the word “Jayhawk.”"

Even 5th graders know that you need to do your homework.

5DecadeHawk 9 years, 2 months ago

I feel bad for the 5th Graders that were being counseled about entrepreneurship by Chuckles Woodling.

Has Chuckhead ever started a business from scratch? Or has he just been an employee and hapless editor all of his life?

If Chuck Woodenhead accidentally discovered a buyer for smelly manure, he couldn't start a simple diharrea factory if you fed him nothing but salmonella laced bran. He'd spill the product all over and contaminate the entire city's water supply.

The LJW is doing worse than anything Sinks did and is getting away with it. Chuckles and the LJW habitually exploit KU Student athletes in an effort to make a buck. This is particularly true whenever there is the slightest bit of controversy. If a KU athlete gets into trouble, you can rest assured the the LJW will beat the story to death with dozens of stories, report every false rumor they discover, and dredge every incident back up as soon at that player is about to perform on the highest profile stage. If that player turns out to be innocent? They'll print a couple sentence paragraph one time and bury that story on page 999.

Joel Hood 9 years, 2 months ago

"... I’ve known Sinks since he was a little boy. His father, Lawrence, was a printer for the Journal-World, and we played together on the J-W softball team. So if you want to accuse me of prejudice, so be it."

Well, Chuck, I've met him too and he is a pompous jerk.

Phillbert - you nailed it. SInks knew exactly what he was doing. The LJW has a page that showed all the banned shirts - many of them used the word Kansas in conjunction with the University or used the word Jayhawk.

http://www2.ljworld.com/photos/galleries/2008/jul/16/joecollege_shirt_verdicts/flash/

I have no sympathy for him - he has been in this business a long time and his little Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer act was b.s. He knew exactly what he was doing and he lost the game of chicken he started.

Ben Kane 9 years, 2 months ago

Jerk or not, I still don't agree with KUAD on this one.

DXJhawk 9 years, 2 months ago

I would have liked to see an agreement that was mutually beneficial for both sides. It looks like stubborn attitudes (on both sides) or lack of ability to compromise ended with both sides losing in the long run.

$650,000 is a ridiculous amount to spend on legal fees fighting this one guy.

Waylon Cook 9 years, 2 months ago

The lesson the 5th graders learned was right and wrong. Joe College did NOT do the proper steps to print and sell the tees. Ya they can build a business and be successful but there are steps they need to take!

Marcia Parsons 9 years, 2 months ago

This lawsuit didn't just jump up out of nowhere. Isn't it possible that they had been warning Sinks for years that he was infringing on registered trademarks? It looks to me like he decided they would never do anything about a "little guy" and just kept pushing and printing. When KU Athletics finally said "no more" he tried to portray himself as the victim. He took a chance and lost, and has no one to blame but himself.

bigjaybabyjay 9 years, 2 months ago

When will these KUAD haters realize that Athletics was protecting the mark of the UNIVERSITY!

Justin Anderson 9 years, 2 months ago

Shame on Miss Cochrane for having a sports editor discuss "supply, demand and entrepreneurship". We have economics professor's on campus and several successful local business people who she should have used. Of course Chuck goes to bat for his longtime friend completely ignoring the ethics of proper journalism, I have come to expect no less from him. His article is full of misinformation as previously pointed out. It's a shame they still publish his blather.

KUbsee69 9 years, 2 months ago

I believe in FREE enterprise.

I believe that the Founding Fathers believed and intended that as long as you don't physically harm another person, you should be FREE to pursue business as you want.

(Sidebar: I believe that all siesmic activity in the Eastern U.S. is caused by the Founding Fathers flipping over in their graves.)

I believe that bullies are bad.

I believe that KUAD is the Larryville Bully ... quote the Lew ... "what, you're making money! Only we can make money!".

I believe that Woodling's take is correct on this one.

kvskubball 9 years, 2 months ago

This article is pure bologna...and only my attempts at civility keep me from calling it a lot worse.

Where is your professionalism...don't they teach ethics to journalism majors?

What Mr. Sinks did was unethical. The courts decided it was illegal. The decision says he broke the law. KU had to go after him not once, but twice...

You have let your personal feelings cloud your professionalism...That is a very poor decision on your part. You should be reprimanded by your employer.

If you want to air your personal feelings, do it in an appropriate format...I don't think a KU 'beat' writer should be bashing the University and its associates for upholding their legal rights so that others won't do worse. Write a letter to the editor, as a private citizen, don't use your editorial position to be a bully pulpit for illegal and unethical actions...

This is just very shoddy journalism.

jcsmith 9 years, 2 months ago

I just noticed this week that he closed down. Was walkin Mass and was dumbfounded by what I seen when I got up to the store. I have purchased three shirts from the store, granted two of them were gifts, but I really enjoyed stopping on my stroll down mass and reading the shirts in the windows. Its sad to see that such a promising business, as you said that pleased many, be put out of business. Did his shirts cross the line on some occassions, maybe. Could some of them been printed in better taste, possibly. Did they make people laugh, HELL YEA. Is AMERICA supposed to be a FREE country, HELL YEA. But, in reality, the fact is that America is no longer a "Free" country. People are quick to whip a lawsuit on something that they feel offends them and their rights.

KAI sued Joe College because of their rights..... What about Joe Colleges rights????

Egg on the face, KAI. Love my University, but this ain't right.

jcsmith 9 years, 2 months ago

Oh, and I might add. If putting the word KANSAS on a t-shirt infringes upon the rights of the University, then every t-shirt in every souvenir shop infringes upon the rights othe University.

Heres what it boils down to. If Larrys business was not downtown Lawrence KS, theres no issue. Period.

basty 9 years, 2 months ago

I was under the impression that KAI did this guy a favor by not forcing him to pay much of the judgment. If KAI wouldn't have done this, Sinks would have been bankrupt. What's the other side to the story? Why didn't you interview Marchiony or someone and print their rebuttal/side of the story? How am I supposed to make an informed decision on the situation w/o hearing both sides and the facts?

Also, what's with all this attack on this situation being proof that we are not longer a "Free" country? Stealing intangible personal property is still stealing. Seriously, you would want to live in a country where as long as "you don't physically harm another" you can take whatever they own in the name of business? What Sinks did is equivalent to taking merch out of the KU Stores, not paying for it, and then selling it. Only difference is that the situation I described would yield higher margins as there wouldn't be printing costs. . . It's the same thing. Sinks pushed the envelope, high risk, high reward. This time the risk side won out. That's what our society is about. What would be unamerican would be not holding him accountable for a wrong committed. (whoops, bailouts . . . )

Phillbert 9 years, 2 months ago

Exactly. Free enterprise depends on the protection of private property. Trademarks are property.

Dan Pawlowski 9 years, 2 months ago

Since when does KAI own the trademark to the word Kansas?

kvskubball 9 years, 2 months ago

Union High School, in Tulsa, OK uses a logo similar to the University of Miami, Fl,'s split U. Miami University threatened to sue Union High School for infringement of their logo trademark, which they have taken the proper steps, and the costs necessary to do so, to legally recognize it as THEIR logo.

Well, instead of ignoring their infringement of the trademark, Union High School did what most small businesses do...they offered a settlement.

They agreed to pay to use the logo. The settlement was that they pay $1000 per year. Not a great deal, but a significant amount that gives Miami, FL its due, for the use of it's logo.

Mr. Sinks would not deal with the University. He did not agree that he infringed on trademarked items. After the first judgement was made against him, he continued to print and sell similar items to those the judgement had banned him from selling.

He could have settled this early by agreeing to pay a royalty to KU for the use of their trademarks...instead he decided to be greedy and keep all the illegal dough for himself. Paying 5 to 10 cents per $ of income on the merchandise would have been a small price to pay. All he would have had to do is pass the cost to the customers...thats what businesses do.

If someone used your property whether that was your car, your identity, your home, your credit card or whatever, without your agreement, and refused to give it back or cease to use it, or compensate you for its use, would you be upset?

Quit being dupes and supporting someone who didn't care about the law, this country, or free enterprise...he only cared about keeping every cent he could, whether it was right to do so, or not.

Tools and fools support illegal activity. Law and order must be maintained in order to have anything close to a 'free' society. Those who rant against laws that are equitable, like the protection of private property, are living in a dream world about what it takes to make a free society work.

Joel Hood 9 years, 2 months ago

KU has been very gracious with a number of high schools that use the Jayhawk as their mascot. They each pay something like $1 each year and agree to not market the image outside of their local interest.

If KUAI is being so aggregious here, why do all other vendors pay the licensing fee? Why aren't they complaining about the big bad bully that is KUAI? Why don't we hear even 1 of these other licensed vendors defending Sinks?

Someone commented that this wouldn't be an issue if JC was located somewhere else. Ummmmmm - no. If this store was in Johnson County, Topeka, or Wichita, KUAI would go after it there too. But, Sinks would never open there because the market for the shirts is only in Lawrence. So that entire point is wrong or moot - you choose.

Earlier, I said that Sinks was a pompous jerk - but even if he was the nicest guy in the world, he would still be wrong here. This is not about him selling blue t-shirts with the word KANSAS on it - these weren't the shirts that a jury found to be in violation. Stop drinking that load of Kool-Aide. Almost all the shirts found in vioaltion clearly infringed - only a few were head scratchers.

Look, I thought many of his shirts were clever and I even own one. But, many of the comments defending Sinks and blasting KUAI are just ignorant. This isn't about Freedom this is about Rights and all property owners have rights no matter how big or small they are. If someone walked into a PC lab at KU and stole $500 worth of computer equipiment and sold it to "feed their kids", everyone would agree that this was wrong - there would be other means to feed his kids. Why are so many of yo willing to sanction his theft, just becuase it deals with intellectual property rights and phyical property rights?

Joel Hood 9 years, 2 months ago

...(hit the post button too soon) Why are so many of you willing to sanction his theft, just because it deals with intellectual property rights and not physical property rights?

4everahawk 9 years, 2 months ago

I think the settlement with Sinks was to try to do a little damage control - KAI right now has a pretty bad rep in this town - settling this was perhaps to make them look less like the bad guys when the whole nation is waiting to see how this other mess turns out. There has to be a pretty good reason for them to decide to cover their own exorbitant attorney fees in this case..anyone agree?

kranny 9 years, 2 months ago

Since when does KAI have a bad rep. Hasn't it been instrumental in raising funds for the new football complex, AFH renovation with practice courts and all, the new baseball clubhouse, etc. I guess I'll start downloading songs off the internet illegally and sell them on the street corner. It's a free country ain't it?

4everahawk 9 years, 2 months ago

kranny: There will always be people who refuse to hear what is screaming all around them.......do you not believe that the porn star and the ticket scandal and all the exorbitant salaries of people doing standard office duties has caused KAI to have a bad rep? As I have inferred before, there are always going to be groupies that remain naive about all that is happening and refuse to see the forest for the trees. I have lived in Lawrence my entire life and been associated with KU for most of those and can never remember a time when athletics has been in the spotlight for so many controversial issues and the feds aren't even done yet.

Marcia Parsons 9 years, 2 months ago

Any spotlight on KU athletics is basically local. As for the feds, when they are done you will see that they are only interested in slapping a giant fine and maybe prison sentence on the jerk who made off with the tickets and sold them without filing taxes on the income.

Dan Pawlowski 9 years, 2 months ago

"Any spotlight on KU athletics is basically local."? Um, oldalum, you do realize you posted this on the internet?

Joel Hood 9 years, 2 months ago

4everahawk - IMO - this wasn't KAI trying to manage their image, but was a way to resolve the case permanently. Sinks was never going to pay the judgment anyway and KAI had him over a barrel. Lew and Marchioni could probably not care less about how the public views this case. What they do care about is the documented application of their risk management procedures in light of recent events.

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