The University of Idaho has ordered a student who owns a beverage company to stop using the name “Vandal Beer.”
The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reported university officials sent the letter, citing trademark infringement, to Vandal Beer owner R. Austin Nielsen earlier this week. The school’s mascot is the Vandals, a nickname given more than a century ago after local sports writers said the school’s 1917 basketball team played with such intensity that they “vandalized” their opponents.
Nielsen announced plans last week for his company to start producing the gold pale ale in Coeur d’Alene next month. He said the beer would be released in retail stores across north-central Idaho in August, with more varieties to be produced in the future.
The 27-year-old came up with the idea while he was a student in the university’s Idaho Entrepreneurs program. He pitched the idea to University of Idaho officials at one point, but school spokeswoman Jodi Walker said university officials told Nielsen he wasn’t allowed to use the Vandal name. Still, he moved forward with the business, promising to donate 10% of sales to University of Idaho scholarships and a fund he plans to start aimed at helping nonprofits.
“It’s not about money for me,” Nielsen told the Moscow-based newspaper. “It’s really about I’m pursuing my passion, so I want to help others do the same.”
The Vandal Beer brand website includes a disclaimer that it’s not affiliated with the university. On Tuesday, Nielsen declined to comment on the trademark infringement letter, saying he wanted to wait until he talked to his attorneys.
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