Georgia’s attorney general is asking a federal court to dismiss the trademark infringement lawsuit filed over the use of “Georgia Regents University” for Augusta’s consolidated university.
The state also wants to freeze the proceedings until the judge rules on its motion to dismiss. Attorney General Samuel S. Olens filed both motions last week in U.S. District Court in Augusta.
Regent University of Virginia Beach, Va., filed suit in September against the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents to stop its planned name for the consolidated Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities.
The Board of Regents voted on the name Aug. 7. The Virginia university contends that the board was aware of its position before the vote because Regent University had sent a cease-and-desist letter Aug. 3.
Regent University has trademarked the “Regent” name since at least 1990, the lawsuit contends.
Olens counters that the board is protected by sovereign immunity. The lawsuit should be dismissed, Georgia contends, because no individual can sue a state government unless the state consents, waives immunity or Congress denies immunity protection because the state has repeatedly violated constitutional rights.
As individuals, Board of Regents members can lose their immunity protection only if they take an official act that violates clearly established rights bestowed by legislative act or the Constitution, the state contends. That has not occurred, according to the state filings.
Considering how common the name “Regents” is – eight other states have Boards of Regents for their university systems, and at least two universities have used the name “Regent” at some point – the Georgia board had no reason to believe the name would be legally reserved by trademark, Georgia contends. Also, all the school names that include “State University” or “Tech” show that adding a state’s name to the title distinguishes one school from the others, the filings state.
Regent University says the Georgia board lost its immunity defense because the board has sued others for violating its trademarks. Georgia contends that is not true under case law.
No hearing has been scheduled in the case, which is assigned to U.S. District Court Judge J. Randal Hall.