Balloons and a new banner adorn the recently renovated and renamed Houston College of Law (formerly South Texas College of Law) atrium on San Jacinto Street in downtown Houston. But the party may soon be over.
Houston College of Law changed its name from the South Texas College of Law last week in an effort to rebrand the 93-year-old institution. The decision upset officials at the nearby University of Houston, who believe South Texas's new name and colors — the same red and white as UH — will confuse consumers and the public into believing the schools are affiliated.
Lawyers for UH on Monday afternoon sued Houston College of Law in federal court, alleging trademark infringement. UH hopes to persuade the court to block South Texas's proposed name change.
"This is about protecting our reputation and our business," Tilman Fertitta, chairman of the UH System Board of Regents, said in a statement. "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."
UH ranked 50th in this year's U.S. News & World Report rankings of law schools. South Texas College of Law has never appeared on the publication's "Best of" law school lists.
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Houston College of Law spokeswoman Claire Caton said the school will not comment on ongoing litigation. Caton said the institution has no intention of reverting to its old name, and believes the
Houston College of Law is on solid legal ground.
Caton said she was unaware of any conversations between UH and Houston College of Law officials regarding the name change before the lawsuit.
When Houston College of Law announced the name change June 22, UH threatened to take legal action.
Monday's lawsuit is not the first time UH has sought to protect its image and influence in Houston. Last fall, regents were wary after the University of Texas purchased 332 acres of land in the city to build a research center. A regent told the Houston Chronicle he suspected the purchase was a "Trojan Horse" for UT to expand in Houston.