While there is no indication that any of these college programs have plans to take legal action, the situation has left Simi baseball officials and Evans Sporting Goods red-faced and blaming each other. Fine said his organization never sought permission from the colleges or their licensing representatives. They’d been assured by Evans that appropriate clearance had been obtained, he added. But Dave Miller, the Evans Sporting Goods representative whom Fine claims gave him those assurances, denied doing so. He also admitted that neither he nor his company have licensing permission from any of the colleges to produce uniforms with their trademark-protected logos. “We produced those uniforms to our customer’s specifications,” Miller said. “We used the college logos and artwork that Simi Youth Baseball provided us.” Both Fine and Miller initially tried to downplay the licensing problem, saying the youth teams were being identified only by the team mascots, not the names. But the Simi schedules, including those on its Web site, identify league teams by colleges, not mascots. Some teams and players have also taken field trips to visit local colleges whose uniforms they wear. Evans Sporting Goods, based in Garden Grove, has long supplied uniforms for youth baseball programs in Santa Clarita, Granada Hills, Simi Valley, Toluca Lake, Agoura Hills, Sylmar, Acton and Castaic – programs that in recent years also stopped wearing MLB-replica uniforms. For his part, Miller and Evans Sporting Goods have been at the center of the licensing controversy for some time, having been sued by Major League Baseball years ago when the league first began cracking down on licensing. In one instance, Evans and one of the programs it supplies – the Hart PONY League in Santa Clarita – ran into a problem when they attempted to skirt the licensing laws with uniforms bearing “Hart” in script on the jersey front with a major league team name in the tail formed by the `T’ under “Hart.” “It is a business, and I understand that, but the NBA looks the other way, the NFL looks the other way,” Miller said at the time. “The bottom line is Major League Baseball wants to collect money from youth leagues.” But officials with the National Basketball Association and the National Football League said they strenuously protect their league and teams’ trademarks. Almost lost in this controversy is the reason Simi Youth Baseball began using college team names – the increase in MLB licensing fees. Simi officials say the hike would have driven up the cost of a uniform from $17 to $28 and forced the organization to raise player registration fees. Fees range from $140 to $195 per player, depending on age levels, plus a snack bar fee, with a ceiling of $350 per family. The licensing fee arrangement between Major League Baseball and youth programs around the country, including Little League International, is negotiated by those programs’ national offices. Simi Youth Baseball is not affiliated with Little League, but with the rival PONY League, which like Little League offers programs at several age levels. Virtually all other youth baseball programs in the San Fernando Valley use uniforms with the names of major league teams on them. Tony Czarnecki, whose Canoga Park-based All-American Sport Shoppe outfits many of the Valley’s Little League and youth baseball programs, said higher MLB licensing fees have infuriated some officials from other youth leagues. Czarnecki and others say MLB fees increased after the league entered an exclusive deal with Majestic Athletic Apparel, the same Pennsylvania company that produces uniforms for all of MLB’s teams. Major League Baseball, which charges a royalty for replica uniforms using the designs it owns, has defended its move as being best for controlling the quality of the products that bear its name. While MLB officials didn’t return phone calls for this story, the league’s licensing director, Steve Armus, told the Daily News last year: “We love kids and we encourage them to play Little League or PONY League baseball and we know how important it is for them to emulate their heroes. But at the end of the day we are a business. This is not a profitable business for us – don’t forget about all the middlemen – but it is a business. We’re not in it to gouge. We feel we’re very fair.” Meanwhile, the Simi league will continue wearing the college uniforms until further notice, with games scheduled into June. [email protected] (818) 713-3761160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Officials with the 600-player league proudly proclaimed the integrity of their decision – that by using amateur college team names instead of those of dollar-driven Major League Baseball, they were promoting the purity of the game, steering youngsters toward thinking about college and saving money at the same time. But Simi Youth Baseball officials never asked those colleges and universities for permission to use their trademark logos and color schemes, prompting the institutions to aggressively protect their licensing rights. “It is a problem that has gotten increasingly worse and which we have to constantly be on top of,” said Liz Kennedy, the director of trademarks and licensing for the University of Southern California. Last year, USC was among a group of colleges that, with The Collegiate Licensing Co., won a trademark infringement suit against a uniform manufacturer. The ruling means manufacturers and others can no longer use colleges’ distinctive colors – like USC’s cardinal and gold – in producing apparel that refers to those universities. The Collegiate Licensing Co.’s clients include Pepperdine and the University of California at Berkeley, Rice, Fresno State, Notre Dame and Stanford – all of whose trademarked logos and color schemes were also produced by Evans Sporting Goods for the replica uniforms purchased by Simi Youth Baseball. SIMI VALLEY – When those who run the Simi Youth Baseball League decided recently to go with college uniforms instead of those of the pros, they thought they were standing on principle. The licensing company that provided the pro threads was charging too much, and Major League Baseball – with its steroids scandal and multimillion-dollar salaries – isn’t worth emulating anyway, league organizers said. But their attempt drifted into foul territory. Because they never got permission to use the college names and logos, the league and the company that provided the uniforms could come under fire from those schools – USC, UCLA and Pepperdine University among them. “I just hadn’t thought any of this would be a problem,” said Mike Fine, Simi Youth Baseball president, who acknowledged the program never got a legal opinion about using the college names.
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