Trademarking the obvious in Higher Education

You might be sued for using some pretty common HE phrases

Slate has an amusing piece on universities and colleges which have trademarked seemingly everyday Higher Education phrases such as “student life” and “fast-track MBA”.

According to the piece various institutions have been granted federal trademark registrations on the phrases, presumably to stop other people from using them in any context remotely related to education. At least in the USA. The key terms to avoid:

  • first-year experience has been trademarked by the University of South Carolina

  • fast-track MBA has been trademarked by Eastern University

  • be the difference has been trademarked by Marquette University

  • cure violence has been trademarked by the University of Illinois

  • student life has been trademarked by Washington University in St. Louis

  • students with diabetes has been trademarked by the University of South Florida

  • one course at a time has been trademarked by Cornell College

  • touched by a nurse has been trademarked by the University of Colorado

  • we’re conquering cancer has been trademarked by the University of Texas

  • working toward a world without cancer has been trademarked by the University of Kansas Hospital

  • imagination beyond measure has been trademarked by the University of Virginia

  • tomorrow starts here has been trademarked by East Carolina University

Don't even think of copying this strapline

Don’t even think of copying this strapline

And it does seem that some are not afraid to go after those who use their trademarked property:

The University of Alabama has made legal threats against a cake shop; East Carolina University sued Cisco; West Virginia University sued a company selling blue-and-gold shirts (they said “Let’s Go Drink Some Beers!”—which WVU claimed was too close to their trademarked “Let’s Go Mountaineers!”).

Bizarre. Some of these are such everyday phrases it is difficult to imagine not using them on a regular basis. Although it is a struggle to imagine a context in which “touched by a nurse” might be deployed to positive effect. It couldn’t happen in the UK, could it? (It probably has.)

Advertisements