University of Houston Prevails in a Trademark Dispute
Last year, South Texas College of Law began a comprehensive rebranding effort. Officials from the law school voted to change its name and school colors. Beginning in June of 2016, South Texas was set to become the Houston College of Law and they would wear red and white. Fearing consumer confusion, the University of Houston quickly filed a trademark infringement claim against South Texas. Beyond the similar name, it just so happens that the University of Houston also wore the colors red and white. Recently, PR Newswire reported that the University of Houston has prevailed in their trademark litigation. Their success began in mid-October when a federal judge granted their motion for a preliminary injunction against South Texas. Then, soon after, South Texas simply abandoned their plans. Instead, they decided to go with the name South Texas College of Law Houston and went with a navy blue color scheme.
Trademark Infringement: Confusingly Similar Branding
When granting the preliminary injunction in the trademark case, the judge expressed his belief that South Texas was using ‘confusingly similar’ marks to the University of Houston’s already established brand. Importantly, the University of Houston also operates a law school within the city. Their law school is named the University of Houston Law Center. This name by itself is fairly similar to the proposed name change of ‘Houston College of Law’. Though, the judge also noted that the similar color scheme was also a major issue. Under federal law, to prevail in a trademark infringement claim, a plaintiff must be able to prove that an alleged offending mark is likely to create confusion in the mind of a reasonable consumer. In this case, the University of Houston was able to successfully make that claim.
The Factors of Likelihood of Confusion
In order to analyze whether or not a mark is confusingly similar to a protected trademark, federal courts will consider the following five factors:
- The similarities in the overall impressions created by the marks;
- The similarities in what the two business or organizations do;
- How close the two brands are, in both a physical and marketing space sense;
- The intent of the alleged trademark infringer; and
- Any actual confusion that has already taken place in the minds of reasonable consumers.
The bottom line is that the courts will take a totality of the circumstances approach to assessing trademark infringement. Courts will always be looking to strike a balance on all of the factors. If your brand is being adversely affected by a brand using a similar trademark, you must take immediate action. Please contact a qualified attorney who can protect the legal rights and financial interests of your business.
Contact Our West Palm Beach Office Today
The trademark law attorneys at Pike & Lustig, LLP have the skill and experience necessary to help protect the value of your brand. If your company is involved in a trademark dispute, please call our office today at 561-291-8298 to set up an immediate review of your case. We proudly serve businesses throughout South Florida, including in Palm Beach Gardens, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.