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Student Guide to Trademark Licensing

The names and marks of universities are marketable commodities. Public affiliation, support, or loyalty to an institution often translates into a market for products such as shirts, mugs, caps, etc. that bear the institution's name or mark. Successful marketing of these products extends the recognition of the university or college.

Detailed trademark information:

Trademark Registration

Northwestern University's name and marks are registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Through Federal registration, the University owns its name and marks; no individual, department, nor separate society owns them. It is unlawful for any entity to reproduce the University's marks without prior written approval.

Trademark Licensing Program Goals

The licensing program serves Northwestern University by:

  • Ensuring that the products bearing the University's marks are of good quality
  • Ensuring that each licensed use reflects positively on the University
  • Generating revenues for the University

The University must retain control of its name and marks to ensure that they are used on a quality merchandise and that their usage is proper.

Licensing Requirements

Any individual, organization, or company wishing to use Northwestern University's marks must obtain the right to do so from the University's Trademark Licensing Office. The right is granted in the form of a formal licensing agreement. Only licensed companies can reproduce the University's name or marks.

Licensed companies (licensees):

  • Pay a royalty to the University for the use of its name
  • Submit a sample product for quality review
  • Send all designs incorporating the University's registered marks for review

Licensed Manufacturers and Local Retailers

The Trademark Licensing office maintains a list of licensed promotional product manufacturers, all NU licensees, Big Ten Licensees, and local retailers that sell licensed products. Visit one of the following pages for more information:

Students, Schools, Departments, and Organizations

All products that Northwestern University schools, departments, student groups, and affiliated organizations wish to have produced bearing the name and/or marks of the University are regulated by the licensing program. The items need to be produced by a licensed company. The licensed company will submit to the Trademark Licensing Office a copy of the design for approval.

Contact us before placing an order or to produce an item printed with Northwestern University's name or marks. The Licensing office can assist in finding a licensed company.

Student groups must download and submit the Trademark Licensing Authorization Form (pdf) that must be signed by their student organization advisor. Artwork submission should accompany the form submittal.

Student organizations are able to use their SOFO accounts as payment.

Fair Labor Practices and Worker Rights

Northwestern University is committed to full public disclosure of manufacturing locations, the study of living wages, and protecting the rights of all workers, especially women. The University requires that its licensees follow these guidelines.