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Law School Brings Trademark Claim to Protect its Name

In addition to individual keywords playing an important role in digital marketing, strings of keywords, or phrases, are also important. They help people narrow down their search by providing content that’s more specific to what they’re looking for.

But when people search multiple keywords, unless they put quotation marks around the phrase, online search engines will produce results that include those words in various combinations. This is why one company’s name or trademark does not need to look identical to another’s in order to cause confusion.

According to a recent trademark infringement lawsuit against Houston College of Law (formerly known as South Texas College of Law), the school’s new name and logo bore remarkable similarities to those of the University of Houston Law Center. The University of Houston published a statement pointing out these similarities and the problems they might cause, and when the college refused to do anything about it, the university sued to get the college to stop using the new name and logo.

The Houston College of Law argued it had already spent almost $500,000 to help publicize its new name, but U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison pointed out that most of that money was spent after the college had already been made aware of the university’s concerns.

The judge did not argue there are some differences between the two logos, but in his ruling, he stated that the differences were small enough, and the similarities substantial enough to cause confusion. In fact, in his ruling in favor of the University of Houston Law Center, Judge Ellison noted that confusion between the two schools had already become evident on multiple occasions, including a letter and an important email that had been sent to the wrong school and an online group that accidentally changed the name of the wrong school.

Ellison further pointed out that the Houston College of Law had much to gain from causing this sort of confusion, given the fact that the University of Houston Law Center is currently ranked by the U.S. News & World Report as the 50th best law school in the country, whereas the college is not ranked at all.

Although trade infringement can certainly happen as an honest accident, it is also common for some companies to deliberately make their name and/or logo look similar to that of a well-known organization in order to take advantage of their brand recognition and prestige. By changing their name to include the words “Houston” and “Law” the college was already making sure it showed up in online searches for the University of Houston Law Center. But then the college went even further by creating a logo that used the same color scheme, font, and even emphasized the same word as the university’s logo.

As a result of all these findings Judge Ellison ruled in favor of the University of Houston Law Center and approved a temporary injunction against the Houston College of Law using its new name and logo. The college will now be required to remove the new name and logo from its website, merchandise, and billboards.Super Lawyers named Illinois business trial attorneys Peter Lubin and Vincent DiTommaso Super Lawyers in the Categories of Class Action, Business Litigation and Consumer Rights Litigation. DiTommaso Lubin Austermuehle’s Illinois business trial lawyers have over a quarter of century of experience in litigating complex class action, copyright, non-compete agreement, trademark and libel suits, consumer rights and many different types of business and commercial litigation disputes.  Our Evanston, Naperville and Schaumburg business dispute lawyers handle emergency business law suits involving copyrights, trademarks, injunctions, and TROS, covenant not to compete, franchise, distributor and dealer wrongful termination and trade secret lawsuits and many different kinds of business disputes involving shareholders, partnerships, closely held businesses and employee breaches of fiduciary duty. We also assist businesses and business owners who are victims of fraud. You can contact us by calling (630) 333-0000 or our toll free number (877) 990-4990.  You can also contact us online here.