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University of Houston sues Houston College of Law for trademark infringement

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HOUSTON – The University of Houston System has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Houston College of Law, according to an announcement Monday from the university.

UH administrators said HCL is intentionally copying the university’s red and white color scheme and causing brand confusion by using the name Houston College of Law, instead of its former name South Texas College of Law.

UH officials said the lawsuit states the name change will result in confusion among the market of law students, potential law students, lawyers and consumers of legal services. 

“This is about protecting our reputation and our business,” Chairman Tilman Fertitta of the UH System Board of Regents said.  “We’ve earned our standing as a nationally ranked law center, and we won’t allow someone else to change their name and colors and market themselves on our success.”

HCL officials released a statement the following day, expressing their disappoint in UH administrators for pursing litigation. However, the college is confident it is within its legal rights and will keep the name. 

"Houston College of Law is making this name change to avoid confusion," J. Ken Johnson, chairman of the Houston College of Law board of directors, said. "In fact, creating market confusion would be in direct conflict with misunderstanding surrounding 'South Texas," which is not descriptive of our historic location in downtown Houston."

Johnson said the college has not adopt new colors or alter its website, other than to add its new logo. He added that the college has records dating back to the 1960s of crimson being used in its official communication, advertisements, graduation hoods and former logos.

“The University of Houston Law Center’s brand is associated nationwide with top-notch faculty and lawyers,” Tony Buzbee, who is representing UH in the lawsuit, said. “UH didn’t take shortcuts to achieve this recognition.  We believe the attempted renaming of South Texas College of Law is nothing more than an improper shortcut to take advantage of the success UH has achieved.”

According to UH administrators, such rebranding could mislead potential students that there is some affiliation between the two schools, that UH approves of HCL legal education services, or that UH and HCL are one in the same entity.