Trademarks & Licensing

ACTL history and current projects

2011-2015   Professor Margaret Levi and a group of UW graduate students undertook an ACTL-centered study of global supply chain violations of workers’ rights. The study was supported by the World Bank, the World Justice Project, and a host of other organizations. The team research on apparel production in Honduras, Bangladesh, China, and beyond was published as book: Daniel Berliner, Anne Regan Greenleaf, Milli Lake, Margaret Levi, and Jennifer Noveck. Labor Standards in International Supply Chains: Aligning Rights and Incentives. Northampton: Edward Elgar, 2015. xii + 205 pages.

2016-2018   ACTL led the effort to compel Nike to accept the code of conduct for apparel production that UW, and several other universities, required. Nike had contracted the Collegiate Licensing Corporation Master Retailer Agreement in 2003 and regularly renewed the contract until 2016, when Nike insisted on its own code of conduct. That date was concurrent with a dispute over workers’ rights violations at the Nike-contracted Hansae factory in Vietnam. The Workers Rights Consortium investigated the workers’ complaints, but Nike refused to require the supply factory to grant access for the inspection. After the United Students Against Sweatshop mobilized to support the WRC investigation and demand for access, ACTL became involved and recommended that UW negotiate a contract requiring Nike to follow CLC standards and grant WRC access for investigation, urging termination of the contract if Nike refused. After an eighteen-month campaign by USAS and ACTL, President Cauce in the spring of 2018 announced she would follow the ACTL recommendation and demand Nike compliance or terminate the contract. After a summer of negotiation, a successful contract agreement binding Nike to the IMGCL code was reached. Most observers recognized the outcome as a landmark achievement.

2019-2020   ACTL considered the case proposed by UW Trademarks and Licensing to refrain from renewing the contract with its long-time licensing agent, CLC. At the time, a proposed merger of CLC and another licensing agent, Learfield, was quietly under way. ACTL members seriously scrutinized and debated the value of contracting with a licensing agent for corporate responsibility monitoring. ACTL members mostly concluded that breaking with CLC would weaken its capacity to advance CSR, and that severing the relationship before the new merged corporation could be assessed was unwise. Once agreement was reached for a new three-year contract with the licensing agent, ACTL constructed a list of performance standards by which it would assess the contributions of Learfield IMG to advancing the UW CSR mission. That work of assessment is ongoing.

2020-2021   ACTL members began exploring two new issues that might expand its agenda related to advancing workers’ rights in university apparel production—climate change standards for factory production practices, and working conditions and wages of prisoners who produce goods purchased by UW. ACTL members are working with WRC and many university partners to explore the potential for action on these issues.