Court rules in ECU's favor
Feb. 24, 2012
ECU News Services
A federal judge has ordered a Greenville man to stop using HealthyPirates.com in connection with his publication and related website because it infringes upon East Carolina University’s trademarks.
James C. Dever III, Chief United States District judge, permanently enjoined Roy Hopkins Jr. of Greenville from making any use of the term “Pirates,” any skull and crossbones logo or any other logo, or the colors purple and gold, in a manner that is confusingly similar to East Carolina University’s logos and color scheme.
Hopkins also must transfer the domain name registration “healthypirates.com” and pay the University’s costs and attorneys’ fees in the amount of $36,357.03. Hopkins has 30 days to report to the court and the university his compliance with the injunction.
“We are pleased this has been resolved by the court in this manner,” said Paul Zigas, senior associate university attorney. “Legal action was not a step we desired, but it became necessary when it was clear that the dispute could not be resolved with Mr. Hopkins informally.”
In April 2011 ECU filed suit in federal court against Hopkins alleging he engaged in trademark infringement, cyberpiracy and unfair competition. Dever issued a judgment in ECU’s favor on Feb. 17.
Zigas said the university has a legal obligation to police and protect its trademarks. Otherwise, he said, it risks losing the ability to enforce its rights.
Robert Lucas, chairman of the ECU Board of Trustees, welcomed the ruling by the court. “One thing it does is send a message and that’s important,” he said at a trustees’ meeting Friday, Feb. 24.
Specifically, the court found that Hopkins’s conduct infringed and diluted ECU’s registered trademarks and common law trademark rights, including in the University’s rights to its distinctive school colors of purple and gold. Hopkins’ conduct was found to be “deliberate, willful and wanton, making this an exceptional case” in regards to the U.S. statute.
“We believe the award of attorneys’ fees and costs in this case is fair and appropriate as the defendant was found to have purposefully infringed and diluted the university’s trademarks,” said Zigas.
The term “Healthy Pirates” has been used for at least 10 years by an ECU student-organization that promotes health and wellness, Zigas said. The “Healthy Pirates” name is a university-owned trademark, he said, and ECU is a nationally respected provider of medical services and education, including for the people of eastern North Carolina and Greenville.
Zigas noted that the university, through its licensing partner, the Collegiate Licensing Co., frequently addresses trademark matters with commercial enterprises that intentionally or inadvertently misuse university-owned marks.
"Successful resolutions are often reached without the need for litigation, but the university will do what is necessary to protect its reputation, good will and intellectual property rights," Zigas said.