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Legal Technology: Lawsuit Filed after Cisco Begins Using Same Trademarked Phrase as East Carolina University

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January 14, 2013

Lawsuit Filed after Cisco Begins Using Same Trademarked Phrase as East Carolina University

By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Contributor

Before last week, the only significant controversy involving East Carolina University was its new membership in the Big East Conference for football. Some other colleges and fans didn’t think it belonged there.

But then, all of a sudden, the public college sued Cisco (News - Alert) Systems because both are using the phrase "Tomorrow Starts Here."

East Carolina claims it belongs to them, and has a trademark to back it up. In response, East Carolina University filed a lawsuit against Cisco asking that the company no longer use the phrase and wants to get paid damages, as well.

The case could be settled out of court for cash – and that option is seen as likely by some news reports, especially given the large resources Cisco has to fight a continuing court case.

Meanwhile, ECU is taking the company’s actions seriously.

"ECU has used the mark 'Tomorrow Starts Here' for over a decade, including in national advertisements and publications such as Forbes and Wired," Chancellor Steve Ballard said in a statement carried by TMCnet. "We feel it is essential to take action to protect that defining trademark of our identity and vision."

Cisco began using "Tomorrow Starts Here" in its ads last month. Cisco has spent $100 million on its marketing campaign using the slogan.

The courts will have to determine, among other issues, whether people who see the phrase will get confused by Cisco using it as well as ECU.

It is noteworthy that just from a technology perspective, ECU's College of Technology and Computer Science developed products and intellectual property that have commercial applications.

Yet, Cisco doesn’t appear to be too concerned about the lawsuit.

"Cisco takes intellectual property rights very seriously, and we are confident that our new campaign does not create any confusion in the marketplace," Cisco said in a statement carried by The Register.  “We were surprised to learn that East Carolina University filed a complaint this morning,” Cisco added in a statement last week made to All Things D.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Miami 2013, Jan 29- Feb. 1 in Miami, Florida.  Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Brooke Neuman



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