Regent University in Virginia is suing the University System of Georgia and individual members of its Board of Regents who voted to name the consolidated Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities Georgia Regents University.
Regent, which has had a trademark on its name since at least 1990, said the action constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition. The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Augusta, seeks to bar the Georgia system from using the Georgia Regents name and seeks damages for harm it says Regent University has already sustained, any profits the Georgia system might have made off the name, attorneys fees and other relief.
On learning on Aug. 3 that the Georgia board was considering the Georgia Regents name, the Virginia university sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Georgia board informing it of the Regent trademark and asking that it pick another name. The Georgia board went with the Regents name despite having “received a copy of a nationwide survey showing that the name University of Augusta was widely preferred,” the lawsuit says. “Instead of honoring the historic and rich tradition of the Augusta community, Defendants decided on the name Georgia Regents University without regard to Regent’s well-known trademark rights.”
The lawsuit contends the Georgia Regents name “is likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception and will injure and damage Regent and the goodwill and reputation” of Regent’s trademark. In fact, it “has already caused irreparable injury and will continue to cause irreparable injury to Regent” if allowed to continue, the lawsuit said. The suit also includes allegations of unfair competition and deceptive trade practices.
Immediately after the Aug. 7 vote, a Georgia university system official said its legal counsel had looked at the issue and considered Regents a “general enough term” that its use would not violate trademarks.
The lawsuit also said Regent has already been denied “just compensation” from the Georgia board for the use of the trademarked name.
Georgia university system spokesman John Millsaps said that its legal counsel is aware the lawsuit has been filed but that the university system apparently has not been served notice yet. The university system doesn’t comment on lawsuits afte they are filed, he said.
Staff Writer Sandy Hodson contributed to this.