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University of Rochester files suit against RU, cites name change and trademark violation

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

By Danielle Castillo Digital Editor

The University of Rochester filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of the Western District of New York on June 6 against Rochester University in Rochester Hills, Michigan, for violation of its trademark.

An Overview

In its legal filing, the University of Rochester alleges the name, “‘Rochester University” is just a transposition of, “University of Rochester,” and without the word, “of,” the lawsuit also stated, “The word marks are otherwise identical in sight and sound, “which they say is likely to cause confusion amongst prospective students, parents and employers.

Sara Miller, assistant vice president for communications and University of Rochester spokesperson, said in a written statement, “This market confusion is especially detrimental because we know that many prospective students from across the world begin their college searches on the internet. Our request is that Rochester University be willing to transition to a different name to distinguish itself from the University of Rochester, and we remain hopeful to work out a resolution to this matter.”

Additionally the lawsuit said, by only including the word, “Rochester“ in its new name, RU has shown, “an intent to trade on the University of Rochester’s recognition and goodwill.”

In the lawsuit the University of Rochester said, “This confusion harms University of Rochester, among other reasons, because prospective students and members of the community may accidently believe certain information about Rochester University pertains to University of Rochester, when it does not.”

In a statement, Dr. Brian Stogner, president of Rochester University, said RU is addressing the matter. “The university is prepared to defend itself in court against these claims, which we believe are premised upon inaccurate information and overstated legal theories.” However, the universities are in talks to try to resolve the situation amiably, he said.

Diving deeper

The suit said confusion comes into play when an individual does a Google search for “university” and “Rochester.” The University of Rochester——is the first result followed by its social media and college ranking sites. Beneath that is Rochester University—, which is one letter off. The New York university asserts that during that search, Google inserted a security pop-up warning users that attackers sometimes mimic sites by slightly changing the address.

The University of Rochester pointed to RU’s Linkedin page where people living in Rochester, New York, allegedly with no obvious connection to RU, have listed themselves as Rochester University alumni.

It also said prospective students and families have posted on social media that they’re attending “#Rochesteruniversity,” which demonstrated further confusion.

What the University of Rochester is seeking

According to the lawsuit, among other actions, the University of Rochester is seeking the following:

  • To permanently enjoin Rochester University from using “Rochester University” in educational, entertainment or services in its materials

  • To be awarded actual damages

  • To require Rochester University to disgorge profits attributable to its use of Rochester University in any form

  • To be awarded punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs associated with the alleged violation

  • To cancel the trademarks in question from the United States patent and trademark office

  • To transfer ownership of the domain to University of Rochester

Some background

RU is a private liberal arts Christian college. It had 1,170 students enrolled in the 2022–23 academic year. RU’s website said that it was established in 1959 as North Central Christian College. It was renamed Michigan Christian Junior College in 1961 and became Michigan Christian College in 1978. In 1997, the school changed its name to Rochester College. Stogner said the university legally changed its name to Rochester University in 2012, but began publicly calling itself Rochester University in 2019. According to its website, University of Rochester is a private research university established in 1850 and is ranked among the U.S’s top research institutions. It is located in Rochester, New York, with 12,197 students enrolled in the 2022–23 academic year.



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