DAMASCUS, Md. – It’s small town pride versus big college protectionism. Damascus High School wants to paint its Swarmin’ Hornets logo on a water tower to celebrate school spirit. Georgia Institute of Technology, which has a similar logo, told Damascus to buzz off.
“It’s all about pride and letting people know we’re proud of our town and proud of our high school,” said Damascus parent Victor Furnells, who is spearheading the effort along with Damascus math teacher Rob Hyman.
“What I don’t know that they understand is that the students that go to school here work in this community. The businesses here support the high school,” Hyman said.
Damascus has spent years trying to get permission from the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, WSSC, to put their logo on the side of the water tower in town. WSSC granted that permission in May.
Furnells and Hyman thought their biggest obstacle had finally been overcome.
They were wrong.
“Very frustrating,” said Furnells. “We thought it was a minor hurdle.”
Years ago, Georgia Tech actually came to Damascus and said the school’s logo looked too much like their logo, and asked Damascus to change it. Which it did. Damascus changed the color from yellow and black to yellow and green. They put a D on the front of the hornet.
Georgia Tech and Damascus High School signed an agreement that basically said Damascus can use that logo at the school and around town.
But the water tower wasn’t in that agreement, so when the lawyers from the Montgomery County School System went back to Georgia Tech and asked for permission to use the logo on the water tower, Georgia Tech was noncommittal.
“Georgia Tech has a royalty-free licensing agreement with Damascus High School for a limited use of our trademarked Buzz logo,” spokesman Jason Maderer said in a statement to WUSA9. “We have received a request to use the logo in a way that is outside the agreement. We are considering the request.”
Maderer said Damascus High has been invited to present their request for reconsideration at the next regularly scheduled Licensing and Trademark Committee in August.
But Damsacus said it doesn’t have that much time.
The water tower is being painted by WSSC on July 5th.
“But they have decided to make it a bigger deal than we ever expected,” Furnells said. “And right now we only have two days left before the contrived painters break down the equipment. After that WSSC’s next scheduled painting of the tower is not for another 20 to 25 years. So if it doesn’t happen now, it’s not gonna happen.”
Lawyers from Montgomery County Public Schools and representatives from WSSC have been in contact with Georgia Tech trying to get permission before that Wednesday deadline.
“I don’t know that they understand how important this is to our community” Hyman said. “And I also don’t really know that they understand what the time crunch is on us.”