$40,000/year private school sues school for low-income kids for $2M over "Commonwealth"


#1

[Read the post]


#2

“presently incalculable” damages.

Let me guess: divide-by-zero situation?


#3

/monocle pops out, drops champagne

My God. I think I sent my child to a school for The Poors!


#4

If they have 4-5 applications for every seat, how do they have any losses? Where do they expect these “losses” come from? From the sound of it, they could raise tuition until they are at ~1.5 applications per seat and still have a comfortable margin.


#5

It may be too much to hope that parents of Commonwealth School students will object to the bad publicity enough to cause some seriously calculable damages, but if I were a parent I’d certainly question the school’s funding priorities.

At least I hope so. Maybe my own priorities would be sadly different if I could afford to send my kid to a $40,000 per year school.


#6

Christ, what assholes.

The private school should change their name to “Uncommon Wealth Academy”. amiright?


#7

Just in case anyone here isn’t familiar with MA/NE US private school customs and usages: There Is No Goddam Way Anyone Would Get Confused.

Back in the day, my parents decided to pull me(a number of clusterfucks surrounding my situation at an otherwise well regarded public district) and go private for middle school. The process was approximately as involved as applying to college, albeit with easier application essays. There was research, there were campus visits(and this wasn’t a my-parents-are-psychos aberration; the schools offer tours just as colleges do, have an admissions office full of glossy paperwork, etc.), there were application forms, acceptance and rejection letters, the works. A little typosquatting wouldn’t have made the slighest difference.

At the high school level, it’s the same thing but more so(especially since some of the high schools are functionally indistinguishable from small liberal arts colleges in terms of resources and campus layout/facilities). You research them, you visit them, they research you, interview you, exhaustive documents lay out the course offerings, 4-year college acceptance rates, and everything else in exquisite detail. This isn’t the sort of market where trademark confusion comes easily.

Plus, here in the 'Commonwealth of Massachusetts" ‘Commonwealth’ is extra generic; and not just after the nuclear apocalypse of 2077.

Commonwealth is coming off like utter dicks here; and I really don’t understand why they are doing this. The claim that they stand to lose anything by this confusion is utterly laughable(comparable to saying that Amherst College is damaged by the presence of UMass Amherst and confusion therewith); and I’m not sure who within the organization stands to benefit from this dickery.

It makes everyone involved look like petty tyrants; strengthens the impression that a Commonwealth education is just something you buy rather than actually a good product(which should upset the faculty,students, parents, and alumni: Commonwealth isn’t cheap; but they have a well reputed program); and doesn’t seem to advance their position in any useful way.


#8

They should really just take it to the next level and sue the state.
They should also die in a fire.


#9

The Commonwealth School may be acting like jerks, but your legal analysis is way off base. A trademark is generic only if it is, or has come to be, used generically to refer to the product or service regardless of who is providing it – such as “asprin” or “ketchup.” “Commonwealth School” isn’t generic because “Commonwealth” is not a generic descriptor for a school, and because, in any event, the Commonwealth School is a fairly well known private school so the term has taken on a secondary meaning to refer to a particular entity. Nobody here is Massachusetts would use the term “Commonwealth School” to refer generically to a school that happens to be in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

It doesn’t matter that the CS hasn’t trademarked the word “commonwealth.” The test is whether a reasonable consumer of educational services would be confused about whether the Commonwealth Academy had some connection to the Commonwealth School. There are arguments on both sides, but its hardly a slam dunk.


#11

Why stop there ? The Commonwealth of Nations (formerly British Commonwealth) has quite a few members.


#12

Are you a lawyer and is this a legal opinion?
I mean, you may very well be right, and I am emphatically not a lawyer, though I have involvement in IP including trademarks, but in my experience lawyers don’t throw around remarks like that unless they are billing you. I too can see arguments on either side, but what suggests to me that this is a bad case resulting from arrogance and entitlement is that the private school is claiming an exaggerated amount of damages despite evidence that it is oversubscribed. How is it going to show justification?
The US system in which reasonable costs are not awarded against the losing side has a strong smell of injustice. Unless this school is preparing its pupils for a life as commercial lawyers, you would think they might wonder exactly what is being achieved.


#13

Commonwealth is coming off like utter dicks here;

I’m confused. Which school is being a total dick here? The status symbol or the one that actually tries to educate children?

/s


#14

Based on the substance of the response and the age of the account, I presume that @TheGreatLarue1 is an astro-turfing, sock-puppet of a lawyer who is already on retainer by the 40k per year school, attempting to do damage control now that the story is out there.


#15

…allegedly.


#16

@TheGreatLarue1 has some good points. It’s not technically necessary to file a trademark - the key indicator is that it had been in use and that there is some notice of the intent to use the term as a mark. That’s the difference between ™ and ® where the latter means it’s a registered trademark, and the former meaning it’s being used as a mark, but has not been registered.

Also it’s worth noting that trademarks are typically granted regionally because confusion in the marketplace (at least traditionally) happens at a local level - nobody is going to confuse Shmoe’s Ice Cream in NY with Schmoe’s Ice Cream in California unless either of them is a national chain.

Finally, confusion in the market doesn’t just happen at the student level, it happens at the college or job level too; someone who paid for a top-flight education at the School don’t want college admissions officers or employers to put their applications in the same pile as the Acadamy students. That’s a legitimate concern for confusion.

As to be merits of the claim, it seems to me the term “commonwealth” is used a lot in the state of Massachusetts and that likely makes protecting that word as a mark very difficult. But though I trained as a lawyer I no longer practice law, and trademarks were never my specialty anyway, so I leave it to others to clarify that.


#17

No flag is needed. However, the correct use of that phrase requires the addition of a New Yorker cartoon.


#18

See, I think this is where it fails. A similar sounding name, yes, but are you telling me a rich, presumably educated person, is going to confuse the School with the Academy? Did the difference in tuition costs tip them off, or was it the pearl clutching after realizing the school was rife with “diversity”.

It would be akin to someone opening a 5 star restaurant named McDonalds, and then people confused there aren’t Big Macs.

Ironically, before I read the boston globe article, a internet search came up with a cost of $38K for tuition for Commonwealth Academy. Turns out that is in VA.


#19

My god, it’s like the law is telling them they have to sue! It’s not only their right, it’s their obligation!


#20

Christ, what a nice amulet that large breasted woman without nipples is wearing!


#21

That’s a really interesting point. But is the reputation bump a person gets from a product really protected in trademark law? I would think it would only cover confusion on the part of the consumer as to what product they were paying for. Although I guess if you buy a Gucci bag from a whispering woman on Canal Street, there’s little chance of confusion for you, but Gucci seems to have been successful in making the argument that there is confusion for the people who see you strutting around with it later…