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During a 16-hour period on Jan. 1 - along the streets of Pasadena that hosted the 102nd Rose Bowl game featuring the Iowa Hawkeyes and Stanford Cardinal - licensing officials contacted more than 40 vendors who surrendered or abandoned 1,144 counterfeit items.
That illegal merchandise included 295 counterfeit Rose Bowl T-shirts depicting both the Iowa and Stanford brand, 286 unlicensed bowl shirts promoting Iowa, and 121 illegal bowl shirts for Stanford, according to a final enforcement report provided to The Gazette.
The enforcement team, which included University of Iowa licensing director Dale Arens, found the counterfeit vendors during patrols of the Rose Bowl Parade route, tailgate areas, and parking lots near the Rose Bowl Stadium.
'Some of them, you could tell, had been through that time and time before,” Arens said. 'They knew what was going on. Others, not so much. Some of them tried to talk their way out of it.”
Having arrived in Pasadena earlier in the week, Arens said authorities could have confiscated more illegal gear he spotted outside the Hawkeye Huddle or near the Battleship USS Iowa, for example. And Arens provided that feedback before he left the Los Angeles area.
'I didn't have law enforcement support,” he said. 'But we could have probably seized a lot more if those events were included.”
This wasn't the first year Arens traveled to a Hawkeye bowl game to help enforce licensing violations. But, he said, the Rose Bowl was a unique experience.
'This was a bigger operation,” he said, comparing it to Bowl Championship Series games. 'I think what we encountered is part of that culture.”
Arens didn't have legal authority to cite or arrest violators, but his presence was key in identifying perpetrators - as he can spot violations with just a glance, sometimes due to specific errors in the logo and sometimes due to his experience and gut.
'There are nuances to our trademark that I am trained to see,” he said. 'I know what is legit and what is not.”
Take the registration mark that sits under the Tigerhawk logo - the circle with an 'R” inside.
'That registration mark has a specific placement that has an alignment feature,” Arens said. 'I know the proportions of that.”
Also, the Tigerhawk is right-facing, not left. And some of the Rose Bowl shirts he saw included a College Football Playoff logo.
'So they're not even accurate,” Arens said.
And even though Arens' office has approved 'thousands and thousands” of Hawkeye artwork and products, he still often remembers those he's seen before and those he hasn't.
'When I walk up to somebody holding up a T-shirt with a Nike swoosh on it, my mind instantly recalls all of the artwork I've seen from Nike,” Arens said. 'And this isn't one of them.'
In his Rose Bowl patrols, Arens said it quickly became obvious that vendors were looking to capitalize on the 'ginormous” wave of Iowa fans that had traveled west for the game. Of the total items surrendered or abandoned, 824 - or 72 percent - involved the Iowa brand, according to the final report.
'It was overwhelmingly evident that the market was Iowa,” Arens said. 'There were a lot more Iowa fans there than Stanford … So they didn't represent as much of an opportunity as the Iowa people did.”
Only one of the Rose Bowl-associated offending vendors was arrested. In most cases, officers would confront the suspicious sellers, give them the chance to abandon their merchandise, and allow them to walk away without even a citation.
'When given the option of surrendering or being cited, they took the option of not being cited,” Arens said.
Several sellers, however, did restock their merchandise supply and return to the streets - only to be caught again. One man confronted twice ended up giving authorities 28 Stanford beanies, eight Iowa beanies, 41 Rose Bowl caps, and 62 Rose Bowl T-shirts.
Brand Security Corporation, an investigative firm involved in the Rose Bowl enforcement, held onto surrendered items for 30 days before donating them according to guidelines from the Collegiate Licensing Company, which represents nearly 200 colleges, universities, bowl games, athletic conferences, the Heisman Trophy and the NCAA.
Arens started his long day of Rose Bowl enforcement at 4:30 a.m. outside the Pasadena Courthouse, but didn't identify any violators until after the parade started at 8 a.m. He slipped into the stadium in time for the game and told his accompanying officers he'd join them after if Iowa won - expecting vendors would be pushing hard the Iowa logo again.
'It was evident that was the desired conclusion for all the illegal vendors,” he said. 'That would have been their best sales opportunity.”
But Iowa lost big.
'I was like every other person from Iowa - I was sad for our coaches and players,” he said. 'But it had been a long day at that point. And I was ready to go horizontal and get some sleep.”