The Naval Academy is demanding that Nike and the Undefeated, a Los Angeles-based boutique, stop using a logo closely resembling its historic academy crest.
In a statement Thursday night, an academy spokeswoman said Office of Naval Research is preparing a letter to the companies notifying them of trademark infringement and insisting that they stop.
"The Naval Academy crest represents honor, integrity and leadership, and is emblematic of our students and more than 80,000 alumni who serve and have served our country, many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice in its defense. It is difficult to understand why anyone would modify and use our symbol without permission for marketing and profit motives," said Jenny Erickson, an academy spokeswoman.
Nike and Undefeated have not responded to multiple requests for comment.
The collaborative line, dubbed The Fives, features shirts, pants, jackets and other soccer apparel adorned with the altered crest. The official Undefeated Twitter account tweeted a picture of the logo Monday -- it features a shield with five tally marks flanked by columns. The shield is surrounded by a scroll reading "Respect All," "Fear None," "The Fives," and "Los Angeles."
A hand extends above the tallies to clutch a trophy adorned with a Nike logo and another scroll reading "MMII," or 2002, the year Undefeated was established.
The Naval Academy coat of arms, adopted in 1899, features a shield, flanked by columns, surrounded by a scroll, with a hand extending from the top and clutching a trident. The Academy seal has an approaching ship and open book instead of tallies, the aforementioned trident instead of a trophy and the scrolls read "Naval Academy," "U.S." "Ex scientia tridens," meaning "From knowledge, seapower."
The Naval Academy owns the crest trademark, which the Navy's Office of Trademark Licensing Program Office maintains.
"The similarities of the Nike/UNDEFEATED logo released this week and the USNA Crest are undeniable and we believe their logo is clearly an infringement of trademark law," Erickson said.
The line launches Saturday at a pop-up event in Los Angeles. The line is not available for purchase on the Undefeated website, but visitors can peruse a lookbook of the clothes.
Naval Academy graduates, parents and supporters took to Twitter and Facebook to decry the logo as "stolen valor," a term used to describe people or products that use the trappings of military service without actual military affiliation.
Scott Koenig, a 1994 graduate, said he was shocked upon seeing the Undefeated logo. He said it's "clear they just took the graphic."
"When viewed from any distance other than a few inches, it's the Naval Academy logo," Koenig said. "It's such a distinct and easily recognizable symbol, I don't know how you could mistake it for anything else."
The crest appears everywhere across the campus -- on doorknobs and milk cartons, on the flags and the Chapel window. Midshipmen are issued new clothes featuring the crest when they join the academy. Graduates since 1906 have the seal engraved into class rings.
"It was just everywhere," Koenig said. "You couldn't turn your head without seeing it, and then to see it on some completely unrelated commercial apparel in Los Angeles in some boutique store, is appalling. It's insulting because we earned the right to have that on our rings."
Defense Department policy prohibits non-federal entities from using department-affiliated insignia to avoid the appearance of "official sanction or support," according to a 2008 instruction.
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