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Plain Talk: UND President Armacost says it's up to Coach Berry to address trademark controversy publicly

"That'll be for Coach Berry to make a determination," UND President Andrew Armacost said on this episode of Plain Talk.

White University of North Dakota "NODAK" jerseys
White "NODAK" jerseys used by the University of North Dakota's men's hockey team.
UND provided photo
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MINOT, N.D. — Retro hockey jerseys featuring "NODAK" emblazoned on the front have become a hot item for the University of North Dakota's hockey team. Fans love it when head coach Brad Berry tells his players to wear them, and they've been buying related merchandise at a brisk pace.

But it turned out that UND didn't own the trademark to 'NODAK." A business entity associated with Berry's daughter did, and that created the appearance of a conflict of interest. The business entity has since transferred ownership of the trademark to the school , but is that really the end of this issue?

UND President Andrew Armacost joined this episode of Plain Talk to discuss the situation.

He said that the trademark was transferred to UND, and that no money or other inducements were part of the deal. He said he first learned about the issue through a fraud hotline tip to the North Dakota University System head office, though the issue gained public notoriety after I wrote about it earlier this week.

Armacost said he hasn't spoken to Berry about his involvement, if any, in the formation of the business entity or the registration of the trademark. Asked if UND planned any further review of the matter to ensure that policies promoting ethics, and prohibiting conflicts of interest, had been followed, Armacost said the matter was "resolved" by transferring the trademark.

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That ended the conflict, he argued.

He also said that he wouldn't call on Berry to address the public about what participation he had, if any, saying that he would do the same with any other university employee in similar circumstances.

"That'll be for Coach Berry to make a determination," he said, meaning that the public won't know what the intent was in registering this trademark, or what the involvement
of Berry, one of North Dakota's most highly paid public servants, was unless Berry himself, or someone else involved with the trademark, speaks out.

As for why the university didn't trademark "NODAK" previously, Armacost said it was the opinion of their legal counsel that the school's prior use of "NODAK" established their rights to it, but admitted that in "hindsight" the school should have acted.

"We could have protected it and avoided this altogether," he said.

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Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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