A few weeks ago, we featured a new Duke apparel website called Ampersand Threads with shirts that had recently been tweeted about by Nolan Smith. The website, and its merchandise, became very popular since then, and its shirts began to show up around campus. Yahoo Sports even featured it on its college basketball blog, The Dagger.
Just over a week ago, though, when one clicked on the website, images of the shirts were replaced by a letter from the site’s owner, Mitchell Phillips. The letter stated that the site was being shut down indefinitely after Phillips had decided to not fight a legal battle with the university over copyright privileges. He also wrote that he never wanted to hurt the school or the team:
I always kept the spirit of Duke basketball first and foremost when creating new designs and stated numerous times that I would never intentionally do something that could potentially jeopardize the players or university. I always aimed to keep the designs generic enough that they wouldn’t be an issue with the university.
While not mentioned in the note on the website, Phillips told The Chronicle in an email that Duke University had sent Ampersand Threads a cease-and-desist letter:
A few weeks back I started receiving word through the grapevine that Duke was going to ask me to shut it down and sure enough I received a cease and desist letter. While a few of the shirts may have inadvertently been in violation of NCAA rules, the majority of my designs were quite generic (82-50, the championship years, even the Shuh-Shef-Ski shirt) because I wanted to avoid any problems. I looked into my rights as a designer and my legal counsel said we could fight it or just remove the site. Being a huge Duke fan, the last thing I wanted was a legal battle over the very shirts I was making to hype up the guys and basketball team.
For those who liked Phillips’s designs, which included an homage to Smith called “Ndotsmitty is my homeboy,” there is hope: Phillips would like to work with the Duke stores to get some of his designs in stock:
I’d love to work hand in hand with Duke (let them legally use a few of the designs I was working on) so that way people can still purchase the shirts, but they do so through an officially sanctioned Duke store.
Will the university take him up on his offer?