TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, June 27, 2016

University Of Houston Files Trademark Infringement Lawsuit Against South Texas's Rebranding Itself Houston College Of Law

UHHCOLFollowing up on my prior posts (links below) on South Texas College of Law's rebranding itself Houston College of Law:   Press Release, University of Houston Files Trademark Infringement Lawsuit Against South Texas College of Law:

The University of Houston System has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against South Texas College of Law (STCL).  The suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Houston, alleges STCL’s announced name change to Houston College of Law and its adoption of UH’s red and white color scheme constitutes “intentional and willful infringement of UH’s intellectual property and unfair competition,” which results in “confusion in the marketplace and damage” to the university and its brand.

“This is about protecting our reputation and our business,” said Tilman Fertitta, chairman of the UH System Board of Regents.  “We’ve earned our standing as a nationally ranked law center, and we won’t allow someone else to change their name and colors and market themselves on our success.”

“The University of Houston Law Center’s brand is associated nationwide with top-notch faculty and lawyers,” said Tony Buzbee, principal of The Buzbee Law Firm, which is representing UH as lead counsel in addition to Sutton, McAughan, Deaver, PLLC.  “UH didn’t take shortcuts to achieve this recognition.  We believe the attempted renaming of South Texas College of Law is nothing more than an improper shortcut to take advantage of the success UH has achieved.”

As of 2016, South Texas College of Law was not ranked in U.S. News & World Report Rankings of Best Law Schools.  In the press release announcing its name change, STCL admitted it has struggled to gain visibility in nearly 90 years since it was founded, with minimal national name recognition of roughly two percent.

Conversely, UH is a Tier One Carnegie Research institution, rated in the top 15 percent of all universities by the Princeton Review.  For 2016, the University of Houston Law Center is ranked 50th of U.S. law schools by U.S. News & World Report and is ranked No. 29 by the National Law Journal among “Go to” law schools based on the percentage of graduates hired by the top 250 law firms in the nation.  A listing of UH Law Center rankings is below.

“The University of Houston Law Center has worked hard for its national reputation,” said Buzbee.  “We intend to protect it.”

The lawsuit states an STCL name change to ‘Houston College of Law’ will result in confusion among the market of law students, potential law students, lawyers and consumers of legal services.  Such rebranding results in the belief that there is some affiliation between the two schools, that UH approves of STCL legal education services, or that UH and STCL are one in the same entity.  The suit seeks relief from the court that prevents STCL’s use of its proposed name.

Prior TaxProf Blog posts:

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BS. I'm a UH grad (PhD), but this is silly. But, South Texas probably loves it. Just like Trump could have never afforded the publicity CNN gave him for free, I suspect South Texas will laugh all the way to the bank. (Not to mention kick their ass in court.)

Posted by: Dale Spradling | Jun 27, 2016 3:43:51 PM