Houston Law School Abandons Name Change

     HOUSTON (CN) — A Houston law school abandoned its rebranding effort, mooting an injunction from a federal judge who said its new name infringed on the University of Houston’s trademark.
     The Houston College of Law’s board of directors said Monday they had voted to change the school’s name to South Texas College of Law Houston, effective immediately, compromising in the face of a trademark lawsuit from the University of Houston.
     Known as South Texas College of Law since it opened in downtown Houston in 1927 as a night school for working professionals, the school announced on June 22 it was changing its name to Houston College of Law.
     School officials said the rebranding was to raise the school’s national profile that has languished in part because the public did not associate the school with its hometown. The college also adopted a red-and-white logo as part of its makeover.
     The University of Houston quickly sued, claiming the new name was confusingly similar to that of its law school, the University of Houston Law Center, and likely to suggest they were affiliated.
     U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison agreed, granting a preliminary injunction on Oct. 14.
     “Confusingly similar” is language used in all federal trademark infringement lawsuits because plaintiffs must prove that element to prevail.
     “The meanings of the marks HOUSTON COLLEGE OF LAW and UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON LAW CENTER are practically identical, and this alone presents a source of potential confusion,” Ellison wrote in the injunction.
     Ellison said the fact that universities are often umbrella organizations for their colleges added to the likelihood that students would believe the schools were affiliated.
     “UH is home to, for example, the University of Houston College of Arts, the University of Houston College of Education, and the University of Houston College of Pharmacy. ‘Houston College of Law’ fits almost perfectly within this framework, creating a substantial risk that potential purchasers will ‘think [Defendant’s] services [have] some connection with [UH],’ Ellison wrote.
     “This is particularly true when the HOUSTON COLLEGE OF LAW mark is prominently displayed in the red and white colors commonly associated with UH.”
     South Texas College of Law touts its award-winning alternative dispute resolution program, and now its professors can now turn the court loss into a lesson plan.
     South Texas College of Law now goes by South Texas College of Law Houston.
     The school will also incorporate navy blue into its colors to further differentiate itself from the University of Houston.
     “By promptly changing our name to South Texas College of Law Houston, the board of directors made the only responsible and prudent decision for the law school,” Chairman of the Board chairman J. Ken Johnson said.