Judge’s Ruling in Takoma Academy Lawsuit Favors Potomac Conference
by Monte Sahlin
By AT News Team based on Visitor News Bulletin, March 18, 2014
Judge Deborah Chasanow, a Federal District Court chief judge, has issued a preliminary injunction in favor of the Potomac Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination in its trademark lawsuit against the Takoma Academy Alumni Association, Inc., (TAAA, Inc.). Adventist Today first reported a year ago on the conflict between the alumni group and the secondary school in the Maryland suburb of the United States capital where Washington Adventist University and Washington Adventist Hospital are located and perhaps 15 percent of the population is made up of Adventists.
The conflict came about when the alumni group incorporated as a charity without permission from the local conference, as provided in denominational policy. Leaders of the alumni group expressed concerned about lack of support from denominational administrators and proper handling of donations.
Potomac Conference filed the lawsuit last year against TAAA, Inc., and Henry Pittman (president of TAAA, Inc.), after they received a letter from Pittman’s attorney asking the school to relinquish use of the name “Takoma Academy Alumni Association.” Pittman’s attorney claimed that the school’s use of the name was “unlicensed and unauthorized.”
In an April 18, 2013, statement, Potomac Conference administrators stated that it was Pittman’s organization that was “improperly using the names ‘Takoma Academy’ and ‘TA’ and that [it] was liable for trademark infringement and unfair competition." The conference administrators alleged that the actions of Pittman and TAAA, Inc., had caused confusion among the school’s supporters. They noted in a fact sheet also issued last year, “We do not want any independent group using the good name of Takoma Academy when in fact it is not affiliated with or sponsored by the school.”
The preliminary injunction of the Federal court was issued March 4 and states that "Defendant Takoma Academy Alumni Association, Inc., and its officers, directors, agents … and all persons acting in concert therewith, be and hereby are enjoined from: (1)Using the names 'Takoma Academy,' 'TA,' 'Takoma Academy Alumni Association,' and 'TAAA' in any manner whatsoever, including without limitation, in connection with the advertising, promotion or sale of any product or service, solicitation of contributions or fundraising, as a logo on Facebook or LinkedIn or any other website, and including, without limitation, on all signs, advertising materials, letters, emails, forms, or any other articles; (2) Operating TAalumni.org website, or any other website whose domain name contains the words [listed above]; (3) Committing any act that infringes the … marks" or the words listed above.
In a statement issued March 14, Potomac Conference administrators wrote, “We are thankful for the positive ruling that secures ownership of the Takoma Academy brand, protects the good name of our educational ministry and ensures that its legacy remains strong. As a school and alumni we now have opportunity to move forward in strength together, to fulfill the mission of Takoma Academy, which is to lead young people to Jesus Christ, provide excellence in academics and a commitment to service.”
Adventist Today has received no statement from the defendants in this case. The school’s Alumni Weekend takes place April 25-27 and it is unclear if there will be two parallel meetings as there was last year.