Kettering University in Flint, Mich. is suing Kettering Health Network over the planned change of KHN’s school from Kettering College to Kettering Health University.
The lawsuit, filed in Dayton’s U.S. District Court, claims federal trademark infringement. In its complaint, Kettering University claims Kettering Health’s willful, deliberate and intentional effort “to confuse consumers and profit from the goodwill and consumer recognition associated with the well-known “ ‘Kettering University’ mark for educational services.”
The civil lawsuit includes exhibits such as Kettering University’s trademarks and correspondence between the two schools’ presidents. Another exhibit included is an August 2017 Dayton Daily News article which said KHN’s trustees voted to re-brand the college as Kettering Health University starting in January 2018.
The lawsuit seeks to stop the name change, for damages to be trebled and for costs, attorneys’ fees and expenses.
“Consumers have and do conclude that Defendant’s educational services are associated, connected, or affiliated with Kettering University,” the lawsuit claims, noting that both schools offer health care training.
“We don’t have any information to share at this time,” a Kettering Health spokeswoman said Tuesday. The complaint has not yet been answered in court documents.
An Aug. 23 letter from Kettering University President Robert McMahan to Kettering College President Nate Brandstater said the proposed name change “is most problematic for us.”
McMahan asked Brandstater to “consider an alternative name that sufficiently distances your institution from Kettering University.”
An Oct. 9, 2017 response from Brandstater to McMahan read, in part: “After taking into consideration the information and perspectives in that letter, leadership at Kettering Medical Center proceeded with the plan to register the trade name “Kettering Health University.”
According to the lawsuit, Kettering University was founded in 1919 as the School of Automotive Trades, changed in 1926 to General Motors Institute and changed again in 1988 to Kettering University, named after inventor Charles Kettering. In 2008, the institution started offering a pre-med program.
Founded in 1967, Kettering Health’s school was named Kettering College of Medical Arts in 1990 and Kettering College in 2010, according to the complaint.
According to its website, Kettering College has more than 800 students and offers certificate programs, two-year associate of science degrees, bachelor degrees, a Master’s Degree in Physician Assistant Studies and an Occupational Therapy Doctorate.