I write indie urban fantasy books, in which my main character is a professor in a fictional department (Occult Studies) at a real university (Stanford). I would like to make some swag merchandise to sell, or even just give away, as part of my marketing effort for my series. Specifically, I’d like to pay an artist to design me a department crest for the Occult Studies department.
At first, I thought I couldn’t do this because I’m sure Stanford has very good lawyers and protects their copyrights vigorously. However, I’ve just been poking around the net and discovered several parody Stanford T-shirts for sale (“Straight Outta Stanford” and “Keep Calm and Go to Stanford” being a couple).
That got me thinking: Stanford is a city as well as a university (it’s got its own zip code). Could I get away with making merchandise with a fake department crest on it, along with “Stanford Department of Occult Studies,” with no mention of “University” and without using any of Stanford’s trademarked symbols (like the tree and the block “S”?)
Any legal-minded folks out there who might know? I’m not asking for legal advice, just thoughts and maybe anecdotes about others who’ve done similar things.