PTA Tells Copycat Rival to Knock it Off

     CHICAGO (CN) – The National Congress of Parents and Teachers claims School Family Media is piggybacking off its famous PTA trademarks to falsely claim affiliation, while simultaneously disparaging the PTA to drum up support for itself.
     The National Congress of Parents and Teachers says it has sent repeated cease-and-desist letters to the defendant since 2008, but School Family Media continues to abuse the PTA trademark by falsely claiming the two groups are affiliated.
     School Family Media is a marketing company based in Wertham, Mass.
     “School Family Media is a for profit corporation that owns the website www.ptotoday.com (‘PTO Today Website’). It advertises itself as offering the same types of services to parents and families as National PTA,” the National PTA claims in its federal complaint.
     “In 2008, National PTA identified numerous false and misleading statements on the PTO Today Website that used the PTA Marks to imply that PTO Today was associated with, affiliated with or sponsored by National PTA.
     “On July 23, 2008, National PTA sent a cease and desist letter to School Family Media related to School Family Media’s misuses of the PTA Marks.
     “On March 11, 2009, after several months of discussions between parties, National PTA sent another cease and desist letter to School Family Media related to its use of PTA Marks. As a result of these communications, School Family Media changed its advertising and marketing materials, including its website, to address the concerns raised by National PTA. These changes included the addition of an acknowledgement that National PTA owns the PTA Marks, and a disclaimer that PTO Today is not affiliated with National PTA.”
     But despite making the changes, the PTA says, the marketing company added new statements that falsely claim affiliation with the PTA.
     “These statements include false and misleading offers to provide information
     specific to National PTA, including:
     “The latest PTO/PTA news;
     “How to write bylaws for PTO or PTA
     “Be a successful PTO or PTA president
     “Vent, brag, and brainstorm with other PTO/PTA leaders.
     “Get answers to your toughest PTO/PTA questions
     “Your comprehensive Connection to America’s 83,000 + PTOs and PTAs
     “PTO Today has so many options to put you directly in front of PTO and PTA decisionmakers
     “PTO Today … connects you to PTOs and PTAs in your region and nationwide;
     “The Resource PTOs and PTAs rely on.
     “You will achieve a higher level of PTO and PTA leader exposure than with any other industry publication
     “PTO and PTA leaders
     “Promote Your Business to Every PTO and PTA in Your Region or Across the Country
     “Recent survey of PTO and PTA leaders found that 83% reported taking direct action
     “Testimonials from PTO and PTA Leaders.
     “Check out what PTO and PTA leaders have to say about how they rely upon PTO Today’s online resources
     “PTO Today’s unique and powerful connection to PTO and PTA leaders
     “Starting a new PTO or PTA.
     “More PTO/PTA Resources.
     “These statements create the false impression of an affiliation with, association
     with or sponsorship by National PTA.” (Ellipsis in complaint.)
     The National PTA claims that School Family Media did it again in a “sponsorship packet” with “similarly false and misleading statements, including: “Your Direct Connection to the Leaders of America’s 83,000 + K-8 PTOs”; “PTO vs. PTA. Different acronyms. Same passion and purpose. All PTO Today”; and “Regardless of the acronym, all PTA group leaders share a passion for their work and a commitment to helping to helping their school … and they all turn to PTO Today’s valuable resources to help guide their group.” (Ellipsis in complaint.)
     To cap it off, the PTA says, School Media falsely claims that “National PTA has lost tens of thousands member organizations in recent years;” that the “Average PTS sends $1,000 to state and national organizations;” and that there are more than twice as many PTO groups in the United States as there are PTA groups.
     The National PTA seeks punitive damages for trademark infringement, unfair competition, trademark dilution, false advertising, commercial disparagement, deceptive trade practices and consumer fraud.
     It is represented by Jonathan Froemel with Barnes Thornburg.

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