TaxProf Blog

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

Monday, August 29, 2016

University Of Houston:  Like KFC And Pittsburgh Paints, We Own City Law School Moniker

LogosFollowing up on my previous posts (links below):  Houston Chronicle, Courtroom Showdown: Houston Law Schools Battle Over Name:

One day after the University of Houston gleefully announced its basketball arena would get a new sponsor and name, the Cougars brought out their clutch players Friday for a federal hearing challenging the new name taken by a rival law school across town.

The university chancellor and president and the law school dean attended the jam-packed hearing in the downtown federal courthouse, where their lawyers asked U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison to grant a temporary injunction barring Houston College of Law, formerly South Texas College of Law, from using its new name until the matter can be resolved.

UH also wants the private law school to stop using the colors red and white in conjunction with the words "Houston" and "College of Law," fearing the similarities between the two brands might confuse potential applicants, students, and alumni and cause irreparable harm by confusing voters who determine national rankings.

UH's Law Center tied for 50th in the nation in the 2016 U.S. News rankings, along with Temple, Tulane, University of California Hastings and Florida State. The Houston College of Law, the official colors of which are crimson and gold, did not make the list, which goes up to 150.

The UH attorneys argued that the private law school intentionally changed its name, colors and overall branding after getting low rankings to make it appear more like what they argued is the more reputable public law school.

The private school fought back. "They're saying we have some malevolent plan to ride the coattails of the University of Houston," David Beck, for Houston College of Law, told the judge. "I'll tell you: We don't want to ride the coattails of the University of Houston." ...

As evidence of alleged brand confusion, UH attorney Anthony Buzbee showed photographs of several new billboards South Texas College of Law had erected under its new name. "Notice the color scheme," he said. "How it migrated from a deep red, almost maroon, to a bright red."

His colleague, attorney Elizabeth Wood King, showed Pantone paint swatches for the two reds and showed the judge a Houston College of Law athletic shirt, noting the school does not have any intercollegiate athletic teams. She said UH doesn't claim to own "Houston" by itself but only in conjunction with the specific, generic reference to a "College of Law" - much like New York Life, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pittsburgh Paint use names in their brands. Buzbee referenced the defense of Santa Claus in the movie "Miracle on 34th Street," displaying returned mailing sent by the other law school that the U.S. Postal Service had accidentally sent back to UH. ...

Beck, who led a defense team that included at least one alum of the private school, told the judge his client changed "South Texas" to "Houston" in its name because for years many prospective students have had no idea the campus is downtown, within walking distance of courthouses and law firms. The previous name conjured the Rio Grande Valley, a point the judge said he fully understood.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

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Man, New York Law School better watch out, New York University is going to get them. And City University of New York too.

Posted by: NewYawk | Aug 29, 2016 11:51:57 AM

The former South Texas would have a much better argument if they would have stuck with their old colors. The color change makes no sense, except as a clear attempt to get under the halo of UH.

Posted by: BA | Aug 29, 2016 6:34:24 PM