Digest No. 01 - November 2016

Trademark Trends and Brand Activity in Higher Education

Rooksby, J.H., and C.S. Collins. “Trademark Trends and Brand Activity in Higher Education.” The Review of Higher Education, 40(1), 33–61.


Jacob H. Rooksby and Christopher S. Collins view slogan trademarks of colleges and universities as a form of intellectual property. They contend that the brand of an institution represents its efforts to embody the identity and aspirations of the focal college or university. Put differently, according to Rooksby and Collins, brand connotes reputation, quality, and values. Trademarks and slogans function as instruments to create memorable identities for an institution. Brand manifests itself in the form of trademarks.

Rooksby and Collins use three different sources to gather information on institutional trademarks. For example, trademarks registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office constituted one of the three databases.

Discussion of the Findings

One of the datasets used by Rooksby and Collins includes 1,105 trademarked slogans of colleges and universities. The authors note that 94 percent of these trademarks were registered between 2000 and the end of 2012. Table 1 of the article displays examples of 41 of these slogan trademarks owned by particular colleges and universities. Of these 41 colleges and universities, six hold membership in CIC.

These CIC member colleges and universities and their corresponding slogan trademark are as follows:

  • Buena Vista University―Iowa’s Accessibly Scaled, Eye-Opening University
  • Carlow University―Values, Scholarship, Vision
  • Drake University―Building a Winning Legacy
  • Furman University—Bridges to a Brighter Future
  • Guilford College—Become More
  • Hastings College—Pursue Your Passion

Rooksby and Collins arrange slogan trademarks into three categories. The first category includes slogan trademarks that convey the notion that colleges and universities are part of the real world. Examples of such slogan trademarks of this category include “Real World Thinking,” “Knowledge That Works,” and “Creating Value for the World.” A second category of slogan trademarks connotes the private benefits to the individual of attending the focal college or university. The slogan trademarks of Drake University (“Building a Winning Legacy”), Guilford College (“Become More”), and Hastings College (“Pursue Your Passion”) constitute examples of private-benefit type slogan trademarks. The third category conveys the notion that a given college or university contributes to the greater public good. According to the authors, “In the Nation’s Service and in the Service of All Nations,” the slogan trademark of Princeton University, fits this category.

Implications for Action by Campus Leaders

CIC colleges and universities considering or actively engaged in institutional positioning and branding should give serious consideration to the formulation of slogan trademarks that convey the current or aspirational identity of their college or university. Slogan trademarks that connote benefit to the individual would seem particularly relevant to CIC member colleges and universities. Changes to the general education component of the curriculum may provide an opportunity for the creation of a slogan trademark that symbolizes the goals of the curricular revision.

Literature Readers May Wish to Consult

The following reference will provide readers with an overview of marketing and advertising processes of college and universities.

Anctil, E.J. 2008. Selling Higher Education: Marketing and Advertising America’s Colleges and Universities. ASHE Higher Education Report, 34(2). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.