Penn State University Sues Property Companies for Trademark Infringement

By Joseph Mandour on January 16, 2012

LawyerLos Angeles – Two Indiana-based property rental companies are being sued by Penn State University for alleged trademark infringement over the way they advertise properties to be rented for Penn State football weekends.

The trademark infringement lawsuit, filed Tuesday in United States Middle District Court of Pennsylvania, makes the accusations against Double Domer Properties and Rent Like a Champion, both of South Bend, Indiana. According to the complaint, the use of Penn State University house rentals causes confusion in the public and the implied association that the university is involved with the rentals. Specifically, the lawsuit contends that the two rental companies use the Internet, including the website of the New York City chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association, to advertise properties for rent in the State College, Pennsylvania area during football season. One alleged infringing website named in the lawsuit is PSUFootballHouseRentals.com.

Potential tenants can view the properties on the websites at no charge with the two companies taking a small percentage of revenue when a listed home is rented for a football weekend. Statements from the lawsuit add that the infringing website includes an image of a paw print, which represents the Nittany Lion mascot of Penn State. The website also mentions that it is a proud partner of the Lot 13 blog, which offers visitors tips on local bars close to the university as well as barbeque and cocktail recipes.

Penn State maintains that the companies have rented more than seven hundred properties for the football weekends and estimates that they have generated more than $1.1 million in revenue.

In July, the Collegiate Licensing Co., acting on the behalf of Penn State, sent a cease and desist letter to the defendants asking them to stop infringing its trademarks. Reportedly, an attorney representing Double Domer and Rent Like a Champion agreed to advise the defendants to make changes to their websites so as not to cause confusion or the possibility of association between them and the university. Furthermore, upon agreeing to advise his clients, the attorney however did state in his response letter that PSUFootballHouseRentals.com does not infringe on university trademarks since it is descriptive of a rental service provided and no merchandise is actually sold.

“Because this use in no way competes with the uses of the university, there is little likelihood of confusion possible,” the attorney said in his response to the Penn State cease and desist letter.

In addition to asking for a permanent injunction banning any further infringement, Penn State is also seeking unspecified damages as well as the destruction of any materials infringing its trademarks.

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