CHICAGO SEEMS SHY TOWN ABOUT CASHING IN ON NAME

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Everything from kitschy tourist trinkets to Bulls jerseys would pump dollars into Chicago's coffers-if Bob Woodard is correct.

But that's a big if.

Mr. Woodard, president of International Licensing Group, Chapin, S.C., believes the Windy City is missing a multimillion-dollar boat by not charging a licensing fee for using its name.

"Why not develop a program the cities can use so they can make some money off their name?" asked Mr. Woodard, who offers computer software and employee training designed to reap a windfall. "All the major [sports] teams use the name `Chicago,' and the city isn't making a penny on it."

Sports marketers say the city could make as much as $15 million a year with only a modest royalty on sports memorabilia.

There's just one problem: Licensing law experts say the plan won't work.

"A legal nightmare," declared Bart Lazar, senior associate at Seyfarth Shaw Fairweather & Geraldson, Chicago. "This sounds totally unworkable."

Indeed, U.S. trademark laws don't protect geographic names unless they've taken on another meaning, such as Winston and Salem cigarettes or Waltham watches.

Mr. Woodard pointed to Beverly Hills, Calif., and Hollywood as examples of cities cashing in on their names.

But in those cases, it's the respective chambers of commerce, not the municipalities, that have the licensing agreements. And the Beverly Hills chamber collects royalties only when its logo is used. The Hollywood chamber collects only for use of its famous sign or the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Chicago has nothing that distinctive to trademark, said Mark Roesler, chairman of Curtis Management Group, Indianapolis, which represents more than 200 famous names. Still, Chicago officials are intrigued.

A spokesman for the city budget office said: "It sounds far-fetched, but we're looking to determine if it's feasible or not."

Mr. Borden is a reporter for Crain's Chicago Business.

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