Frequently Asked Questions

Detailed answers regarding the many facets of ordering promotional products and receiving official Trademarks and Licensing approval.

If you’re unsure of any language used in the explanations below, please see a full list of definitions.

Trademarks and Royalties

1. What is a trademark?

According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), a trademark is a brand name and includes any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used or intended to be used to identify and distinguish the goods/services of one seller or provider from those of others, and to indicate the source of the goods/services. Therefore, UB claims and protects the following trademarks: our names, seals, symbols, insignia, logos, original artwork, word marks, signatures or taglines, uniforms, mascots, or other identifying visuals, as well as still and moving images, or any other identifier that represents the University at Buffalo.

2. What’s the difference between TM, SM and ® symbols on logos?

TM stands for trademark and is used for tangible goods. SM stands for service mark and is used when a company only provides services to their customers. Both symbols are used prior to any official registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Once the office grants official registration of the mark, the ® symbol is required.

All of the above symbols demonstrate ownership. The University at Buffalo requires all trademarks to carry appropriate symbols on all uses unless an exemption is granted by the UB Trademarks and Licensing (TML) office.

3. What if I left off the TM or ® from one of our promotional products? Do I have to throw them away?

No, you don’t have to throw them away; however, if the TML office finds that any reorder of that particular item is still missing the TM or ®, they will place the UB unit and licensed vendor on notice and may request disposal of the reprinted item in the future.

4. What are royalties?

Royalties are payments made in exchange to use a trademark. Royalties are collected whenever an item is produced that could be sold in a retail setting. The royalty rate is applied to the wholesale price of a good, not its retail price. For example, the retail price of a shirt in a store may be $25, while the actual wholesale price is only $5. The royalties collected on that shirt would be $.60, which reflects a 12% royalty rate.

5. What is the current royalty rate?

The current royalty rate is 12% as of 4/1/2020, which is subject to change.

6. How can I receive a royalty exemption?

Royalty exemptions are granted on a very limited basis and must satisfy ALL conditions below:

  • Condition 1: University funds are used to purchase the product or service.
    • However, if university funds are used to purchase a product or service and then those products or services are resold in any fashion, royalties must be paid. The following instances are examples of university purchases that are not eligible for a royalty exemption:
      • Instance 1: Products or services purchased with university funds but then used for resale or sold at cost to faculty, staff and students, unrelated to the educational mission of the university (e.g., a department places an order for employee clothing then collects reimbursement from staff).
        • It is not considered resale when a unit purchases items in bulk and uses an interdepartmental invoice (IDI) to share order costs among departments.
      • Instance 2: Items purchased with university funds then sold in fundraising efforts (e.g., a student group selling t-shirts to raise money for their organization or a group raising money as a donation to a humanitarian aid organization in recognition of a natural disaster). 
  • Condition 2: The item is customized in such a way that a retailer could never sell to the general public. Examples of customization include but are not limited to:
    • Use of unit lockups at the brand extension or sub-brand level.
    • Use of a master brand mark accompanied by a URL or event name (e.g., “Orientation 2017”).
    • Use of a master brand mark accompanied by a supporting statement, such as “Compliments of the office of XYZ.”

7. I’m using university funds to buy merchandise. Am I automatically exempt from paying royalties?

No, royalty payments are required in the following circumstances even when using university funds to procure trademarked items:

  • Products or services used for resale or sold at cost to faculty, staff and students, unrelated to the educational mission of the university (e.g., a department places an order for employee clothing, then collects reimbursement from staff).
    • It is not considered resale when a unit purchases items in bulk and uses an interdepartmental invoice (IDI) to share order cost among departments.
  • Items sold in fundraising efforts (e.g., a student group selling t-shirts to raise money for their organization or a group raising money as a donation to a humanitarian aid organization in recognition of a natural disaster).
  • Items bearing the name of the university, master brand marks or other university marks and the usage of these marks is not specialized or customized in a way that would prevent sale by retailers to the public.

8. Can I just pay the royalty fee directly to the university and use whatever vendor I want?

No. The university contracts with a licensing agent that handles all royalty fee transactions. Also, there are many other reasons for using a licensed vendor, such as liability insurance coverage; ethical, environmental, and sustainability issues; and financial stability.