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Competing Mascot (copyright, trademark)

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Ok guys, lets call this a hypothetical.  

Say I wish to compete with a high school's adopted mascot/logo.  I don't want to use the graphic they have.  I want to introduce a brand new one.  Lets further say I want it, down the road, to become the official one.  If not becoming the official one, then a beloved alternative.  Does a brand new graphic, not at all like the first, likely violate some state stature?

I have looked, but it about as clear as mud about the school name and name of the mascot.  Say they are the Franklin Birds.  I have searched the tradedmark database for the state and find no Franklin Birds.  Can I couple my brand new mascot/graphic/logo with the school name and not violate copyright or trademark.  Seems there should be some wiggle room someplace to allow competition.

Note that I am not so much trying to be clandestine with them, as just to make a few say shirts or promotional items to create a buzz that would make them receptive.  I don't want to agitate them, but would like them to see some samples on the students without breaking any laws, before I approach.  Otherwise I will just go to the front door and try.  I feel though if I had a legal way to make some items and gain some campus support first, it could go a long way.

Even if all I do is put the mascot/logo with no wording on some items, that might be enough for a start is my thought.

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