04 March 2010

[branding] The Mouse Sets The Oregon Duck Free

The status of the Oregon Duck … the Donald Duck-oid fellow who's represented the Universitatis Oregonensis all these years, via a most unique handshake agreenment between Walt Disney himself and the then-University of Oregon AD Leo Harris (and later qualified by a ton of provisos) has undergone a seismic change today, as reported by the Eugene Register-Guard.

The image was allowed to be used by the U of O in certain ways and in certain venues only. This included the mascot costume, which essentially belonged to Disney though the U of O had to build it and pay for its upkeep. The mascot was only allowed to appear at games, which is why the Rose Bowl booster video by a YouTube Duck consortium calling itself Supwitchugirl almost became as famous. Off-license uses of the Duck tended to put the unique agreement between Eugene and the Magic Kingdom (no, not the Oregon Country Fair) in jeopardy, and I'm certain nobody needs to be clued in on just how jealously Disney guards its symbols, marks, and copyrights.

Well, those days of dancing around Mickey and the gang are over; Disney has entered into an agreement with the U of O that says, essentially, the Oregon Duck costumed mascot and Donald Duck have diverged enough that the aren't the same thing anymore:

… The UO/Disney licensing agreement remains in effect for the printed logos on sweatshirts and the like. But the costumed Duck mascot now answers only to the university.

In an agreement finalized this week, Disney acknowledges that the “current incarnation of a costumed character featured at the University of Oregon’s athletic and promotional events (the ‘Oregon Duck’) is not substantially similar” to Disney’s Donald Duck character.

So, now, Supwitchugirl – and anyone else who wants to use the Duck mascot in a video – can go ahead and do so, inasmuch as they can either get the Athletic Department's permission, or, heck "borrow" the costume for a few hours (hey, it is a college. These things happen).

Clearly not the same thing.
Representation of Donald Duck © Disney. Still.

Congratulations, U of O. I mean, I'm a Beaver fan and all; I'm not exactly uncorking the champagne here. And the Beavers are still gonna be all up in your act this next season.

Not even the spirit of Uncle Walt can keep that from happening to you.

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