Edina Public Schools' green and yellow hornet logo won't be landing on sports uniforms, school buildings or anywhere else in the near future — or possibly ever again.
A long-running copyright dispute over the recognizable image went public this month, when Edina announced it would pause the use of the logo after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from the man who designed the hornet four decades ago.
Whether the district resumes use of the logo or replaces it with something new depends on if it can resolve its differences with Michael Otto, an Edina graduate who created the hornet image and had it copyrighted after he won a school district logo contest in 1981. Otto, who now lives in Grove City, Minn., and works as a community chaplain and professional Santa, said the disagreement isn't about money, at least on his end; he's not looking to earn anything for his design.
"I got to design my high school's logo — why would I ever charge a dime?" Otto said. "I want the legacy of it standing the test of time; I want it to be the logo forever."
Otto said the issue is whether the district needs to respect his copyright, and respect the agreement that gives him the right to decide anytime Edina wants to embroider the hornet on a hockey uniform, stamp it on the bell of a marching-band tuba or paint it on a school floor. He said the arrangement has gone swimmingly until recent years, when school officials decided to take the logo to an out-of-state company that sells school-logo clothing and other products — and refused to give him an accounting of how much money it made or where the logo might end up.
In a statement published on its website, the school district said it was seeking a "more permissive" agreement with Otto because people in Edina want to be able to use the hornet image more frequently. It says attempts to broker such a deal have been met with "such resistance" from Otto that the district has enlisted a graphic design firm to come up with a new hornet logo.
"This is obviously not our first choice of direction, as we value our logo and the emotional ties to it," Troy Stein, Edina High School's athletic director, said in a statement. "However, our community routinely asks for more access to the Edina Hornet image and we want to be able to use the logo freely within our district and provide access to those in the community that identify as proud Edina Hornets."
Stein's statement also noted the district has had to turn down many requests for using the logo because of the "restrictive terms" of the deal the district made with Otto in 1981. District officials were not available to comment further on Monday, but spokeswoman Mary Woitte said the district is careful to make sure the hornet image is only used in a way that properly represents the school and its students and employees.
"However, we need the ability to select our vendors according to product, budget and time constraints," she said. "It has become increasingly difficult to work within this restriction in the agreement."
Otto disputes that characterization. He said he's been happy to sign off on all kinds of requests that put the hornet on everything from pins to murals to commemorative Christmas tree ornaments. He weighs each request on its benefit to the school and the community and draws the line at plans that primarily stand to make someone else a profit — especially if they are not local.
Occasionally, he's asked that he receive one or two of whatever is being made but Otto said he otherwise has not profited from the logo. He said cares deeply about Edina schools and wants the logo to stick around, but needs the district hold up its end of the deal.
"Edina High School is not above the law," he said. "You can't say because you're Edina you can do what you want, when you want and I should just roll over."
The district said it will seek input from the community on a new hornet design, if it comes to that. For now, existing hornets will stay in place, but any new Edina uniforms or school equipment will be stamped only with a green and yellow, block-style E.
Erin Golden • 612-673-4790