What’s in a Name? The Wharton School Trademark Lawsuit

The University of Pennsylvania (aka “Penn”) is home to the world renowned business school named the “Wharton School.”  In fact, the name “Wharton School” is more well-known than “Penn” itself, which is often confused with Penn State.   A lawsuit recently filed by Penn alleges that another company infringed on its trademark through use of the Wharton name.

Penn brought suit in federal court against the California based Wharton Business Foundation for its use of the word “Wharton.” According to its website, the Wharton Business Foundation offers business education and consulting services.  The education component is actually called the Wharton Business Foundation University.  Penn alleges that the Wharton Business Foundation has no legitimate reason to use the name “Wharton” in its brand.  The “Meet Our Team” section of the website doesn’t list anyone with the Wharton name.

The Wharton School bears its name because it was established in 1881 via a donation from Joseph Wharton.  Penn claims it has used the Wharton registered mark since 1881 for business education and since 1953 for business consultation.  The complaint, which is available on PACER, alleges that the Wharton Business Foundation’s name creates “a likelihood of confusion in the marketplace” and “a false impressing in the minds of consumers that WBF is affiliated with, endorsed or sponsored by [Penn], particularly the Wharton School.”

We’ll be keeping our eye on this suit.

On a side note, why don’t law schools have the type of “bling” that business schools have?  Having attended both law school and business school, I suspect it is because most lawyers block out all memories of their learning years.  Business school, on the other hand, is an enjoyable experience.  Also: Most business school graduates actually find jobs in their field, and thus, have money to donate.