College News

Cards against Wisconsin? College Cards to shut down production

College Cards will no longer be available for purchase next week.

Image By: Brock Bruehlman

To win the game, one has to play their cards right. But students won’t be able to with College Cards, a UW-focused version of the game Cards Against Humanity, after the company illegally used the university’s trademark.

The letter focused on the copyright infringement from the company. UW protects their intellectual property like the name, mascot and logos which can’t be used “without express written permission.” Among the many components of the letter, one of the key issues was that College Cards used “Wisconsin” on the packaging, Kemmerer said.

Kemmerer said he “had no malicious intent” in regard to the UW copyright infringement. Sales will end next week, he said.

“When working with other parts of the university, nothing about trademarks or anything ever came up,” Kemmerer said. “They just loved our product and wanted to work with us.”

College Cards began selling their version of the game Dec. 11, 2017. Since then, the company sold over 340 games over two months, earning $10,000 in revenue. The company planned on expanding to other Big Ten schools like the University of Michigan, University of Iowa and The Ohio State University.

In a post on Instagram Tuesday, College Cards announced the news of the shut down to their customers.

“This has been the craziest ride, and the demand for this game completely exceeded even what we imagined when we spent months building it in an apartment bedroom in Madison,” the statement said. “Seriously, thank you everyone for supporting us. You can find us this Thursday at the KK, blacking out and drinking away our sorrows and problems. Long live College Cards.”

Because of the similarity between College Cards and Cards Against Humanity, Kemmerer worked with the company to avoid any trademark infringement. Kemmerer also said during this process that while developing the game, the company worked more with the academic side of the university, and they “were not as aware” on UW’s trademark policies or licensing program.

Kemmerer said he was surprised that UW-Madison took action, especially considering he had a “great relationship” with administrators.

UW-Madison has strict guidelines for companies that want to create UW-branded material. Brands and suppliers have to adhere to a code of conduct for selling the products that addresses things like workers’ rights.

“The university takes this type of action when we become aware of trademark infringement,” UW Director of Communication Meredith McGlone said in a statement. “We can’t selectively enforce — we must follow up in all situations where we become aware of improper usage.”

Students also benefit from the licensing process. The income from sales of licensed products supports some financial aid groups like Bucky Grants, which received $16 million in funding since 2001, McGlone said.

“Typically, if someone wants to sell a product featuring our intellectual property, they would be connected with the people who work on licensing. It does not appear that happened here,” McGlone said.

McGlone said College Cards could later produce their game if they follow the licensing process and reach a mutual agreement with the university.

“I worked my ass off for the past nine months to get this thing off the ground, going well,” Kemmerer said. “We want to work with them, and I hope they see it the same way.”

UPDATE Feb. 21, 2018 at 10:30 a.m.: This article was updated to clarify the exact dispute the disagreement between the company and the university. 

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