Local businessman and long-time resident of Damascus, Md., Victor Furnells had a big idea for the town’s 201st birthday celebration this weekend: paint a 24-foot likeness of the high school’s Swarming Hornet mascot on the side of the water tower.
“We’re very proud to say we’re all about farms and football in this town,” Furnells told WAMU. And the water tower is the perfect place to paste an image you want to be seen.
“Wherever you stand in Damascus, it’s hard to miss the town’s water tower. It’s like a giant baby blue mushroom with antennas.” Said Furnells, the 170-foot tower is “probably the first thing you’re going to see in Damascus.”
Unfortunately for Furnells and the many other residents who chipped in to fund the $15,000 paint job, officials at Georgia Tech University objected to the high-visibility project.
According to Georgia Tech’s lawyers, embellishing the water tower with the Damascus High hornet logo, a green and yellow version of the university’s black and yellow mascot, violates a trademark agreement between the schools that limits where the Swarming Hornet can be used.
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In an email to WAMU, a Georgia Tech spokesperson wrote, “Georgia Tech has a royalty-free licensing agreement with Damascus High School for a limited use of our trademarked Buzz logo.”
The school went on to say, “Since the water tower painting has been delayed due to the weather, we have additional time to work with the school district on this request.”
The school has invited Furnells to come to campus and address his request in person next month. However, Furnells is doubtful that he would be able to raise the money to hire a second paint crew and drain the tower a second time to complete the project at a later date, even if they could work out an extension of the agreement.
“I think Georgia Tech has pretty much squashed a small town’s effort to show its civic pride,” said Furnells.