Fraternities and sororities are the most spirited bunch on campus. They’re all about that Greek life and are proud to show it off on logo items like sweatshirts, water bottles, and other cool merch.

Do you want your company to be part of rush week? Before you get started, there’s an important thing you need to be familiar with: licensing!

Here’s everything you need to know about how Greek licensing works.  

Are Greek Letters Trademarked?

The Greek letters, names, mascots, crests, or any combination used by fraternities and sororities are all trademarked. Licensing needs to be acquired in order to create and/or sell merchandise from a fraternity or sorority.

You’ve probably heard the word “trademark” before, but just in case, here’s a breakdown of what that means:

Definition of a trademark

It may seem weird to think about trademarking Greek letters, since the alphabet is ancient and culturally specific. However, fraternities and sororities have letter combinations with a specific meanings that’s unique to them. As a result, you must have an official license in order to create and sell Greek merchandise.

Why Do I Need a Greek License?

Think about it this way. You wouldn’t print Starbucks’ mermaid logo on travel mugs and sell them at your coffee shop, would you? Greek licensing works the same way!

Fraternities and sororities have hundreds of years of heritage and history to protect. They want to ensure their emblems are being used in a way that reflects their organization’s values and standards. This is why they require licensing.

Affinity Licensed Product logo
Greek Licensing will provide this seal for approved vendors. If your business is approved, you can display it on your website.

Greek trademarks and licensing isn’t something to take lightly. You can find yourself in trouble if you don’t get the necessary approval to sell merchandise.

For instance, in 2011 Delta Sigma Theta sued a clothing company for the unauthorized sale of their apparel. Two years later Alpha Chi Omega sued a paddle manufacturer for the wrongful use of their insignia on the paddles.

Quote from Affinity Licensing

The only way to legally create and sell merch that is printed with fraternity or sorority letters and logos is to get a license. Once approved, the seal serves as an agreement between your company and the Greek organization that you have the right to produce items containing their marks in exchange for royalties. It also means you won’t use their initials or logo in any way that’s damaging or defamatory.

How Do I Get an Official Greek License?

Greek Licensing

You can register for a license to sell Greek merchandise directly through Affinity Licensing at greeklicensing.com. Here are the steps in the process:

  1. Create a new vendor account on the Greek Licensing website.
  2. Submit the online application.
  3. Receive notification when your application is approved.
  4. Start using the official seal on your website and merchandise.

The team at Affinity Licensing meets with representatives from Greek organizations around the country who own the trademarks. These organizations are ultimately the ones with the power to grant permission, and you need their approval before your business can legally sell or print the Greek letters and symbols on any merch.

If the fraternity or sorority isn’t a member of greeklicensing.com, you will have to go through their specific licensing process. Be sure to ask plenty of questions of the Greek organization before you go forward with printing their letters, crests, or logos.

How Much Does Greek Licensing Cost?

Greek money graphic

Every Greek organization sets their own application fee for a license. Most of the time the fee is $20, but it can be high as $100 depending on the fraternity or sorority. This fee is renewed annually as long as the company continues to produce Greek merchandise.

You are also required to pay royalties back to Affinity Licensing if you receive a license. These royalties are collected on a quarterly basis and range from 8.5% to 10% of the total gross sales made from selling Greek merchandise. Some organizations also set a minimum royalty. The company selling the Greek merch must meet that amount to continue their contract with the fraternity or sorority with whom they’re licensed.

All of these payments are then processed by Affinity Licensing and sent directly to the Greek organization.

Who Needs a Greek License?

Kappa Delta Chi
Source: @ KDChi (Kappa Delta Chi) – Instagram

Greek merchandise that is being made with the intention of profit requires a license. Members of a fraternity or sorority can customize their own clothes, signs, and home décor without worrying about getting sued!

Are you part of a sorority or fraternity? Go ahead and show your pride! Print your Greek letters on a custom shirt using decorative puffy paint, or create a handmade sign like the one being held up by Kappa Delta Chi in Texas. You can craft anything you want with your fraternity or sorority’s symbols, logo, and name, as long as you have no intention of selling it!

Can You Print Greek Letters on Promotional Products?

If you intend on printing the Greek letters and symbols from a fraternity or sorority on custom shirts, water bottles, keychains, or any other promotional items, you must first obtain the necessary license. The team at Affinity Licensing will review the artwork and approve it before you can go forward with the order.

Send your artwork or samples to:

Affinity Product Review
9 Wheeler Ave.
Cortland, NY 13045

The good news is that the fraternities and sororities are fairly lenient about how their symbol and letters are printed. You don’t necessarily have to use a particular color or font on your promotional items. The only thing that needs to be exact is the fraternity or sorority’s trademark crest.

Are you planning on branding items with the Greek motifs for an event? Factor in the time it will take to be approved by Affinity Licensing into your order. It’s a relatively quick process, but it’s an extra step that you’re going to have to take.

Show Your Greek Pride

Is Greek licensing worth it? Absolutely! You want a bunch of cool stuff printed with the crests, letters, and symbols. It helps the members show pride in their fraternity or sorority! That’s over 8 million people who’d be interested in this stylish Greek gear.

Greek Promotional Products
Source: @ apa1906network, @ epsilon_tau_aka @ uftheta
@nphc_niu, @ ztafraternity @ officialzeta1920 @ alphasigmatau, @ appstate_sao

Fraternity and sorority licensing is a relatively simple process that is worth the effort. As of 2019, over 1,500 businesses are licensed through Affinity. This ranges from small Mom & Pop screen printers all the way to the big guys like Coca-Cola.

Now that you know more about the process, go ahead and get it to the Greek! Students who belong to a fraternity or sorority are going to appreciate the effort.

References

Diverse Education. (2011, July 18). Clothing Company Granted Opportunity to Defend Against Delta Sigma Theta Trademark Infringement Lawsuit. Retrieved from, diverseeducation.com.

Weeks, R. (2013, January 8). 40-Year Delay Smacks Down Monetary Damages, But Not Permanent Injunction, in Fraternity and Sorority Trademark Suit Against Paddle Manufacturer. Retrieved from, mondaq.com.

Greek Licensing. (2019). Get Licensed. Retrieved from, greeklicensing.com.

William & Mary. (2019). Fraternity & Sorority: A William & Mary Tradition Since 1776. Retrieved from, wm.edu.

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