ECU challenges use of its brand
(Apr. 18, 2011)
East Carolina University has filed suit in federal court to protect its trademarks and brands from unauthorized use by the owner of a Greenville publication and website called HealthyPirates.com.
The suit, filed Friday, alleges that the owner, Roy Hopkins Jr., engaged in trademark infringement, cyberpiracy and unfair competition.
Paul Zigas, senior associate university attorney at ECU, said, "The university has made every effort to resolve this issue without going to court. We have tried unsuccessfully to persuade Mr. Hopkins to stop the practices that we allege violate both federal and state laws. Unfortunately, the university is left with no alternative but to litigate this matter.”
Zigas added that the university has a legal obligation to police its trademarks. Otherwise, he said, it risks losing the ability to enforce its rights.
David Brody, chair of the ECU Board of Trustees, said, "It is very important to protect your brand." Filing the lawsuit was approved by both the ECU Board of Trustees and the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.
Zigas said the university believes that the "HealthyPirates.com" publication and website use marks and colors that are confusingly similar to familiar ECU logos, colors, and registered trademarks, such as the skull and crossbones and the words "East Carolina University Pirates" above a saber.
In addition, he said, the term "Healthy Pirates" has been used for at least 10 years by an ECU student organization that promotes health and wellness. The "Healthy Pirates" name is a university-owned trademark, he said, and ECU is a nationally respected provider of medical services, 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, and successful resolutions are reached in the majority of cases without the need to resort to litigation.
"We regret that we have not been able to reach an agreement with Mr. Hopkins, but the University will do what is necessary to protect its reputation, good will and intellectual property rights," Zigas said.
For more information: Mary Schulken, director of public affairs, 328.6482