Franklin College and Trademark and Education & Workforce Development and Law

Dueling Franklins iron out trademark dispute

July 21, 2009

Indiana-based Franklin College and Ohio-based Franklin University resolved their legal case last night, with Franklin University agreeing to take specific steps in its advertisements to distinguish itself from Franklin College.

The agreed judgment against Franklin University was negotiated yesterday by U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Tim Baker, according to attorneys involved in the case. It is still awaiting the formal signature of U.S. District Court Judge William Lawrence before it becomes official.

The agreement will go into affect Aug. 3, affecting Franklin University’s marketing in the Indianapolis area. Franklin University must include the word “Ohio” at least once in all its advertisements, brochures and students recruiting efforts.

Franklin University cannot use the word “Indianapolis” or “Indiana,” and cannot merely refer to itself as “Franklin.” It also cannot use Web sites or e-mail addresses that contain the words” Indianapolis,” “Indiana” or “Indy.”

And perhaps most persnickety, Franklin University cannot use the Waters Titling font in its advertisements—which it currently is not using.

To make sure Franklin University complies with the agreement, it must provide Franklin College advance copies of any new marketing materials before releasing them. Franklin College will then have two days to object to any content in the ads or other materials.

Spokeswomen for the two schools said they could not yet comment on the agreement.

Franklin College sued Franklin University on July 6 in federal court in Indianapolis, asking for an injunction against Franklin University for trademark infringement.

Confusion over the two schools’ names sprung up this spring when Franklin University announced it would open a campus in Indianapolis. The 107-year-old, not-for-profit school leased office space in Castleton and began frequent print and radio ads.

But Franklin College said the marketing blitz was too close to Franklin College’s own branding.

Franklin College officials said they have received many calls, comments and e-mail messages asking why the school has changed its name or whether it has opened a satellite office for online courses. They also complained that the colors and clock tower in some Franklin University ads are strikingly similar to Franklin College’s logo.

Sherry Mercurio, a spokeswoman for Franklin University, said earlier this month that the school has been using its name in a “factual and consistent manner.”

The two schools have different missions. Franklin College is a liberal arts school that enrolls mostly 18-to-22-year-olds, nearly all of whom reside on its campus in Franklin, a city 30 minutes south of Indianapolis. The school has about 1,000 students.

Franklin University enrolls primarily working adults, whose average age is over 30. Many of its courses are taught online. Indianapolis is the first new U.S. market for Franklin University, which plans to expand in the Midwest and even in other countries. The school has about 11,000 students.

In an interview in June, Linda Steele, vice president of marketing for Franklin University, said the school never considered operating under a different name than Franklin in Indianapolis.

"The Franklin College issue came up and we really did have to take a step back and ask the question whether that is a showstopper," Steele said. "Obviously, we think not, because we chose to go forward."

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