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Nov 29, 2018

Legitimate or Loser? A Look at Clemson vs Counterfeiting

Clemson University, with its iconic orange and purple colors and Tiger Paw logo, is a nationally recognized brand. Recent years of success in athletics have only added to the desire of Tiger fans to wear their team’s apparel with pride. If you’re one of many fans looking to purchase a Clemson Nike football jersey or sideline polo, t-shirt, hat, or even a onesie for your new-born “future Tiger,” think about this possibility: you may be paying for a counterfeit. Avid sports fans across the Palmetto State are shelling out big bucks for what they think is licensed sports apparel, only to find out later that they were duped, online and in person.

To be clear, reputable retail stores like Tiger Sports Shop, The Athletic Department, Tiger Town Graphics, Mr. Knickerbockers, Judge Keller’s, Clemson Variety & Frame, Allen’s Creations, Barnes & Noble, Palmetto Moon, Academy, and the Fanatics in-stadium stores are all selling licensed, legitimate Clemson gear. But there are places to purchase, many online, where the price is just too good to be true, the iconic Tiger Paw seems slightly misshapen, or our beloved Clemson orange seems a little off. And that’s because the product is not officially licensed by Clemson University.

Example of such products can be seen walking the street of downtown Clemson and around campus on gameday. If you see a #13 or “Watson” printed across the back, 2017 CFP logo, patch with Steve Fuller’s name on it or poorly-shaped Tiger Paw, you’re looking at a counterfeit, unlicensed product. After the National Championship win in January 2017, counterfeit version of the popular “Proven” shirts were made and sold after adjusting the phrase to read “World Champions” instead of the licensed “National Champions.” Students, parents, and fans across the nation are falling victim to counterfeiting schemes. And it’s not an issue specific to Clemson, as it affects all other colleges and pro sports leagues like the NFL and NASCAR.

The retail sales of licensed product for sports leagues is over $22 billion annually and only Major League Baseball ($5.5 billion) sells more than college athletics ($4.6 billion). Counterfeiters want to take advantage of that market.

“Organized criminals who are maybe engaged in the narcotics business realize this is just as lucrative and a lot less risky,” said Greenville County thirteenth circuit solicitor Walt Wilkins. “Clemson owns the Paw and the name ‘Clemson.’ It’s their intellectual property. You cannot reproduce that and sell that for a profit. That is a criminal violation as well as a civil violation.”

In its most recent report, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimated that the counterfeit goods market is worth approximately $461 billion worldwide, with footwear being the most counterfeited item. The US is plagued by trade in fake goods, the sale of which often goes to support crime.

So, how can a Clemson fan feel good about purchasing a product that contains Clemson’s marks?

IMG College Licensing says it’s as simple as checking your tags and labels. Real Clemson products will carry a holographic seal. Each one has a unique number that can be traced back to the licensed vendor. Officially licensed merchandise will display the “Officially Licensed Collegiate Product” hologram on the product or hangtag. This tells you it’s the real deal. If it’s missing, you’re likely handling bogus product.

Additional tells of counterfeiting include distasteful depiction of Clemson logos and trademark, torn or missing tags, and absent manufacturer labels. If the shirt or jersey has the name of a current Clemson student athlete, stop the buying process because it’s a counterfeit product.  Additionally, the color of orange, almost a neon orange, on the most recent counterfeit jerseys, is also a quick tip-off.

Other tips for purchasing official merchandise while tailgating on Clemson’s campus include:

  • Beware of solicitation in and around athletic events, including parking lots. Anyone selling shirts, hats, necklaces, or other items in your tailgate area is violating a no solicitation policy and is likely pushing counterfeit goods.
  • If someone is selling products out of a bag or shopping cart on campus, they are likely selling counterfeit products.
  • If any of the products contains vulgar or inappropriate language or contains the name of current student-athletes, they’re selling illegal goods.

If you are approached by anyone selling the types of products discussed above, there are a few things you can do:

  • If on campus, contact the Clemson University Police Department by calling

(864) 656-2222

  • If you are in the City of Clemson, contact your local police department and report the sale of potential counterfeit products by calling (864) 624-2000
  • If you are outside of the area, contact your local law enforcement agency and remind them that South Carolina law enforcement agencies have robust tools to investigate and prosecute the sale of counterfeit goods or services

As previously mentioned, a large number of the sale of illegal product has been found, and continues to be found, on the internet. Because of the proliferation of online infringement issues and overseas counterfeiting operations, all brand owners need to work together to shut down the flow of unauthorized merchandise. Counterfeiting is clearly a large problem, not only for Clemson, but professional and college teams worldwide.

IMG College Licensing received 3,600 online takedown requests from partner institutions in 2013. That number has grown to an estimated 30,000 in 2017 – a 733% increase in just four years.

Online infringers use a few crafty techniques to trap shoppers. Criminals target specific schools or sports fan bases and prey on hot market time periods, like national championships where they know sports fans will be eager to grab team gear and seek the best price. By utilizing direct product advertising, Clemson fans find bogus advertisements just based on user-selected interest on social media platforms, like Facebook.

Fans must be diligent about shopping online and always be looking for red flags. Does the website clearly state that it is selling officially licensed merchandise, as most authentic sites identify upfront? It is against NCAA policies for retailers to offer multiple college products which use the name of a current student-athlete. This simply would never be approved by Clemson University.

If fans encounter a site they believe is selling infringing product, they can report the site at by clicking “Report Infringer” at the bottom of the home page.

Another way to help fight this battle is to support your local retailers such as Tiger Sports Shop, The Athletic Department, Tiger Town Graphics, Mr. Knickerbocker, Judge Keller’s, Clemson Variety & Frame, Allen’s Creations, Barnes & Noble, Palmetto Moon, Bi-Lo, Academy, Walker Golf Course, Dollar General, Ace Hardware, Bed Bath & Beyond, Belks, Cracker Barrel,  LIDS, Kohls, Nike Outlets and the Fanatics in-stadium stores who all sell licensed, legitimate Clemson gear.

The next time you’re in the market for spirited gear from your favorite team, whether in store or online, take a few extra moments to assure that Clemson hat, polo, tailgate product or football jersey meets your own standards and is a legitimate Clemson product, not a loser. Help Clemson fight this battle against counterfeit goods.