Artist who drew Edina High School logo sues over use

The man who drew Edina High School’s hornet logo more than 40 years ago is suing the school for alleged copyright abuses.

A lawsuit filed Monday in the Minnesota U.S. District Court brings four civil charges against Edina Public Schools: Copyright infringement, inducement of copyright infringement, breach of contract and unjust enrichment.

Plaintiff Michael Otto, who licensed the hornet logo to Edina Public Schools back in 1981, claims the school district broke a written agreement between the two parties when it "intentionally took active steps to encourage and promote" third-party use of the logo on merchandise starting in the 2019-20 school year and "knowingly benefitted from unjust enrichment" through these arrangements.

The 1981 letter authorizing the use of the hornet logo stipulates that use of the image "is not transferable to any other company, organization or individual." The agreement also establishes "one sample of whatever product the hornet logo is reproduced on" as Otto’s compensation for use of the logo.

Otto issued a cease and desist order last March but allowed the school district to use the logo for school athletics, activities and events through the end of the school year. He also said the school could keep the logo on the floor of the school’s foyer.

In response to the cease and desist letter, Edina Public Schools phased out the use of its hornet logo, opting for the "block E" logo on all new athletic uniforms and spirit wear. The school district also said it audited school facilities to catalog all uses of the hornet image and to determine the cost of removing it.

"Needless to say, after 40 years of having permission to use the Hornet, it is everywhere — on clocks, walls, gym floors and terrazzo, and of course the Kuhlman Stadium field," Superintendent Stacie Stanley said in a letter to school district families and employees.

The school district also tried to buy the copyright from Otto, but the two sides could not reach an agreement. Now, in light of the lawsuit, Edina Public Schools says it will completely scrub Otto’s logo from its facilities but acknowledged that removal from the athletic field and gym floor "will take some time" and could come at a "substantial" cost.

"We are sorry that the Hornet logo as we know it, a symbol of our Edina school community, may change," Stanley wrote. "Plans for a new Hornet image will be developed and announced in the future."