Prosecutors Still Mulling Charges Against OSU And OU

Friday, November 9th 2007, 10:01 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Prosecutors still are considering whether to file theft charges against representatives from the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University who seized college-themed merchandise from several vendors at an Oklahoma City crafts show.

Last week more than 15 vendors from 'An Affair of the Heart' filed complaints of theft against Suzanne Staley, OU's director of brand development, and Judy Barnard, OSU's director of trademarks and licensing, after the two women seized their merchandise. The women alleged the items infringed on the university's trademarks.

Assistant Oklahoma County District Attorney Scott Rowland said prosecutors have decided not to prosecute any of the vendors and will not seek forfeiture of the items.

``We are of course fully supportive of any holder of a trademark or copyright protecting those, but in this case I think apparent irregularities in the seizure of those items by the university employees preclude us from taking action against the vendors,'' Rowland said in an e-mail.

If convicted, someone who knowingly sells an item with a counterfeit mark could be sentenced to up to a year in jail or a $1,000 fine.

Rowland would not comment on the specifics of the case, but said generally, for someone to seize private property, that person must have a search warrant or court order, and that any kind of warrant-less seizure is ``problematic.''

``Whenever you do it without a warrant, you start out from the proposition that it's assumed to be an illegal seizure, and then the burden's on the state to prove that it was lawful,'' he said. ``It's just so much easier if you have the time and opportunity to (obtain) a warrant or a court order.

``I would prefer that to have been done in this case, if this case is brought to us.''

In the meantime, both universities have sent certified letters to the vendors whose merchandise was obtained for allegedly using university trademarks without a license.

Both letters explain how to become a licensed vendor and say the universities will return items if vendors agree to several conditions, including an agreement to resolve ``all matters related to infringement and confiscation.''

Both universities issued statements saying they are working on returning the alleged unlicensed items to the vendors if they agree to sign the release.

Vendors lost anywhere from $150 to $7,000 worth of merchandise, and many said they were ``repeatedly threatened,'' if they did not hand it over, according to police reports.