WILMINGTON — Two University of Delaware students who sued the school for infringing on their right to free expression after they were prevented from selling T-shirts with a racy slogan have settled out of court.
A stipulation of dismissal was filed in U.S. District Court on Monday. On Tuesday, attorney David Finger, who represented the students, would say only that “the matter has been resolved.”
Meredith Chapman, a UD spokeswoman, responded with identical words when contacted for comment.
The dispute involved T-shirts that students Benjamin Goodman and Adam Bloom, both 21, created with the phrase, “U can suck our D” for the September 2012 homecoming, a phrase often used to taunt opponents at football games.
The students had sold nearly identical shirts the year before and made a profit, leading them to invest $9,000 in 2012 to have 2,000 shirts, 500 pairs of sunglasses and 500 can cozies printed for sale on homecoming weekend.
Goodman and Bloom said they had consulted with someone at the schools’ Venture Development Center in 2011 who advised them that as long as they did not use the school’s trademarked, interlocking U and D logo, the shirts were fine.
Bloom and Goodman, who promoted their T-shirts in advance of homecoming in a mass email and on social media, ended up receiving a “cease and desist” letter from the school. University officials warned the pair that the shirts violated UD trademarks and if the merchandise was sold at homecoming they would be referred to the Office of Student Conduct, which the pair took to mean a possible expulsion.
At the time the lawsuit was filed, in December 2012, attorney Finger charged that the school’s actions were a clear attempt to suppress his clients’ First Amendment right to free expression by threatening academic disciplinary proceedings.
School officials responded at the time that the case “has nothing to do with censorship and everything to do with trademark infringement.”
Bloom, who is still at UD, and Goodman, who has since graduated and is now working at a Maryland marketing firm, were seeking $35,000 in damages for lost profits and to cover their initial investment. At the time of the lawsuit all the T-shirts and items with the offending slogan were stored, unused, in the basement of the pair’s off-campus apartment.
Court papers jointly dismissing the complaint this week stated only that it was done “with prejudice,” meaning it can’t be brought back, and that each side would pay its attorney’s fees and costs.