You may not have heard about a trademark lawsuit involving two universities that was filed in 2012, but the ruling has finally been made in the case and it warrants some discussion. Florida International University (FIU) sued Florida National University after the latter institution changed it's name from Florida National College to Florida National University.
FIU argued that the change in name constituted a breach of their trademark and that it would cause confusion between the two universities. However, a judge recently ruled that such a claim is not valid. The judge was ruling on an appeal after FIU lost their original case in 2012. The appellate court agreed with the original decision, saying that "international" and "national" are distinct words with separate definitions.
Additionally, the court talked about the acronyms involved: FIU and FNU. As the court noted, there are many universities all around the country, and that two universities using the letters "U" and "F" in their acronyms does not materially add to any consumer confusion.
There are a couple of things to note about this case. The first is in relation to "confusion." For businesses to claim trademark infringement, they often point to "confusion" that is caused because two companies have similar names or identities. Proving this "confusion" among consumers is a difficult task, and it takes a lot of evidence and support.
The other lesson here is that even when two entities are similar, it does not mean that your case has merit. Before you embark on a trademark infringement lawsuit, you should discuss your case with an experienced attorney.
Source: Miami Herald, "FIU loses appeal in trademark lawsuit against Florida National University," Emily Cochrane, July 26, 2016