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Trademark Licensing Policy

Northwestern University owns and controls its name(s) and other marks, logos, insignias, seals, designs, and symbols (hereafter, "marks" or "trademarks") that have become associated with the University. Examples of our trademarks are the Northwestern official seal, the name Northwestern, Northwestern Wildcats, etc.

The Northwestern University Trademark Licensing Program protects the integrity of the University's identifying marks. The program also:

  • Ensures that products bearing Northwestern's marks are of good quality;
  • Ensures that each licensed use reflects positively on the University, and
  • Generates revenues for the University.

This policy statement provides guidance on permissible use and restrictions on the use of the University's names and marks. It also clarifies responsibility for granting permissions and license requirements.

Licensing Requirements

  • A license is required for any individual, organization, or company wishing to reproduce Northwestern University's name or trademarks for a  commercial or non-commercial venture. Northwestern has partnered with IMG College Licensing to coordinate its licensing agreements. Licensees and merchants must obtain approval for each use of the University's name and marks on a per product, per design basis.
  • Effective July 1, 2014, all apparel licensees doing business in Bangladesh must sign and comply with the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh ( For additional information, please review our Requirements for Northwestern Licensees.
  • The trademarks of Northwestern University may not be incorporated into the name or mark of any commercial company. Permission is required for the name or marks of the University to be incorporated into the name or mark of any organization.
  • A license is not required for advertisements promoting the sale of licensed products. Such advertisements, however, shall not imply any relationship other than that of licensor/licensee and should include the licensing label that identifies officially licensed goods.
  • Merchants may not be allowed to use the University's name in newspaper advertisements that welcome or congratulate students, provided the copy does not contain either an implied or explicit endorsement connecting the University with the advertiser, its products, or its services. Additionally, there must be no violation of National Collegiate Athletic Association regulations.

University Schools, Departments, and Affiliated Organizations

  • University schools, departments, and affiliated organizations may not assign, sublicense, or modify the name of Northwestern or Northwestern University, or any marks of the University.
  • The Trademark Licensing program regulates all products that University schools, departments, or affiliates wish to have produced bearing the name and marks of the University.

Athletic Department Official Sponsors

  • Official sponsors of the Northwestern University's Athletic Department may use the University's name and marks in conjunction with the sponsor's name and marks when accompanied by the term "Official Athletic Sponsor," according to the contract terms.
  • All promotional items produced with the term "Official Athletic Sponsor" given away by a for-profit or non-for-profit third party entity must be produced by a licensed company. In the case of a promotional item that is sold or redeemed with a proof of purchase certificate, a royalty fee payable to the Trademark Licensing Office will apply.

Unacceptable Products/Services

The University will not license products that do not meet minimum standards of quality and/or good taste, or are judged to be dangerous or carry high product liability risks.

  • Northwestern University will not approve the use of its name or marks to promote the following products: tobacco, controlled substances, sexually-oriented products, religious products, bathroom articles, or games of chance.
  • The University will not approve the use of its name or marks with text or graphics that are judged to be sexually suggestive; denigrate any group, including another college or university; or infringe on the rights of other trademark owners.

Advertising in Publications

Northwestern University and University affiliated organizations that accept commercial advertising for their publications and programs will screen all advertisers for compliance with the University's Trademark Licensing Program. Advertising from non-licensed manufacturers of trademarked products or advertisements using Northwestern's marks without a license will not be accepted for publication.

Compliance Program

The Trademark Licensing Office will maintain a compliance program in the local area. The University's licensing agent will handle national compliance.

Royalties and Fees

The University assesses royalties on net, wholesale sales. Royalties will be charged for promotional and/or advertising licenses. Royalties generated by the licensing program are transferred to the University's General Fund.

Royalty Exemptions

University schools, departments, students, and affiliated groups that order items imprinted with Northwestern's name and marks may be exempt from paying royalties if:

  • The items will be used for internal University purposes,
  • Will be given away at no charge or,
  • Will be sold for University-related fundraising.

To become eligible for the royalty exemption, contact Ellen Barnes and state how the item will be used and the name of the company the item will be purchased from.

Please note that only licensed manufacturers may reproduce the University's name and marks. If the company you have chosen is not licensed, the Trademark Licensing Office will recommend a licensed company or may license the company of your choice on a special, limited-term basis.

Trademark Licensing Office

Auxiliary Services is responsible for the administration of the Northwestern University Trademark Licensing Program.

  • The Trademark Licensing Office maintains a catalog of all product samples and registered products for the University; approves and registers new marks; and maintains a list of licensees authorized to manufacture and distribute goods bearing the marks of the University.
  • The program provides the University with a formal means to protect the use of its marks and ensure that it shared in the benefits gained from commercial use of its marks.


Unauthorized use of a trademark, or use of a trademark so similar that it causes confusion in the mind of the public as to the source affiliation or sponsorship of the product or service.

License Agreement
Royalty-bearing contract between licensor (NU) and a manufacturer or manufacturer's representative who is licensed to produce specific products bearing one or more of the licensor's trademarks.

One who contracts to allow another (licensee) to use the licensor's property (trademark) in exchange for payment.

Registered Mark
A trademark that has been registered with the Federal government through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Federal registration provides additional protection and remedies for trademark infringement.

A word or device associated with a person, company, association, or business.