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CONWAY COUGAR CLAWED
Conway Elementary School forced to change original mascot, which looked like one used by Penn State

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Date published: 9/27/2007

BY JEFF BRANSCOME

Conway Elementary School's cougar mascot recently faced off with the "fiercest beast of them all"--Penn State's Nittany Lion.

The cougars didn't stand a chance.

The uncanny resemblance between the cougar and one of the Nittany Lion logos prompted the Collegiate Licensing Co. to contact the Stafford County elementary school with a polite request: Stop using the image on T-shirts, business cards and letterhead.

The Nittany Lion at issue is not commonly pictured on Penn State merchandise, but is a trademark of the school.

"They said sell what we have in stock and don't order anything else with that logo," said Conway Principal Roxie Cooper.

Conway's Web site used to boast the cougar image and recently had a blue paw under the phrase "Home of the Cougars."

The Collegiate Licensing Co. did allow the school to keep a couple of cougar-image floor mats in the building. They were paid for by the Student Council Association.

The school off Leeland Road in southern Stafford also won't immediately have to dig up a time capsule stamped with the now-restricted logo, Cooper said.

"They've been very agreeable to everything," she said of the licensing officials, who first talked with the school last month.

It's at least the second case this year of a public school being told to scrap a logo because it resembled one of Penn State's.

The licensing company had called a North Carolina high school because its panther mascot was "confusingly similar" to the Nittany Lion, according to an August article in The Daily Collegian, Penn State's student-run newspaper.

Licensing company spokesman Derek Hughes said, "We handle quite a few high school cases around the country. The bottom line is, these [colleges] are protecting their brand."

Culpeper County High is changing its Blue Devils logo, after being contacted recently by Arizona State University, according to news reports. Arizona State has trademarked its mascot, which is identical to the Culpeper logo.

Before Conway opened two years ago, a local resident volunteered to design the fierce cougar.

"I think the gentleman honestly thought he was doing what was right, but unfortunately he was wrong," Cooper said.

The school has since contracted with a firm to come up with a fluffier, more cartoonish cougar wearing a train conductor's cap.

Conway, near the Leeland train station, encourages its students to "stay on track."

Cooper said she was taken aback by the licensing company's notice but is fine with changing the logo.

"I just don't want anything spoiled for the kids," she said. "I think it was an innocent mistake on everybody's part."

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402
Email: jbranscome@freelancestar.com