Purdue balks at use of its brand in panned film

Purdue University officials are asking their legal counsel to look into a new movie that makes frequent references to the school despite its refusal to grant permission to use official trademarks and logos.

"Let's Be Cops" follows the exploits of a former Purdue quarterback and his best friend, a struggling video game designer, as they pick up women, chase naked intruders and take on Russian crime lords.

The Journal & Courier reported that 20th Century Fox approached the school in May 2013 with a request to use official trademarks and logos. After reviewing the script, which includes a scene in which an overweight, naked trespasser falls onto a Purdue grad's face, the verdict was a resounding "no."

"Purdue simply made a decision that it did not want to become formally involved with this film, given its understanding of the project at the time," said Purdue spokeswoman Liz Evans.

Instead, "Let's Be Cops" uses off-brand Purdue lettering and never mentions the full name "Purdue University." The tactic has been used in other films; "American Pie II" was denied licensing permission from both Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. The filmmakers resorted to only using the words "Michigan" and "State" separately — never the full names.

Purdue officials say "Let's Be Cops" probably shouldn't mention the school at all.

"It's all about protecting our image and our brand. If the Purdue name or Boilermaker is used in any kind of a context . then we certainly have a right to approve or disapprove that," said David Wilson, director of trademarks licensing at Purdue. "Any university would have the same concerns."

Wilson said the university receives 10 to 15 requests each year to have its name used in movies and television shows. Most are for educational or documentary programs, but a few typically are for dramatic features.

The university is most commonly seen in mainstream films through football footage. The 1963 John Wayne film "McLintock!" featured a character, played by Wayne's son, Patrick Wayne, who attended Purdue.

Wilson said he's asked the university's legal counsel to weigh in.

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