The University of Law loses landmark trademark case against one of its former law students in the fight over who owns the brand “UniLaw’ which the University failed to register, despite over half a billion pounds sale and refinance.
Audley Chaucer represented Uni Excellence Limited (“Uni Excellence”) who own the brands ‘UniLaw’ and ‘UniMed’.
Uni Excellence operates through the brands of “UniLaw” (providing educational services to aspiring lawyers to choose the best law schools) and “UniMed” (providing educational services to aspiring doctors to choose the best medical schools). See www.uni-law.co.uk and www.uni-med.co.uk
As part of its business, Uni Excellence has in the past endorsed the University of Law to its students whenever appropriate and has sent hundreds of students to them. Ironically, one of the founders of UniLaw, Virginia Szepietowski, is herself a former student of the University of Law. To date, Uni Excellence has trained thousands of aspiring students with glowing testimonials, and at one recent online presentation, had over 1100 students in attendance.
The University of Law (formerly The College of Law) is one of the UK’s leading providers of legal training. The University of Law was sold to Montagu Private Equity in 2012 for circa £180 million and was subsequently sold again in 2015 to Global University Systems for a reputed sum in excess of £500 million (half a billion) pounds.
The University of Law registered a number of trademarks including “ULaw” and “University of Law”. However crucially, they failed to register the brand “UniLaw”, notwithstanding representation by several magic circle firms and an army of academics within the University of Law itself.
The University of Law launched legal action against Uni Excellence asserting that their business had suffered and was damaged by Uni Excellence’s use of the “UniLaw” brand, and that it’s students and the public would be confused. These assertions were strongly denied by Audley Chaucer in a vigorous defence.
Audley Chaucer Solicitors represented Uni Excellence Limited in this litigation together with Ms Rosario Valdez Knight of Trademark Eagle and Ms Georgina Messenger of counsel at Three New Square Chambers. Following commencement of legal proceedings in early 2019, The University of Law informed Audley Chaucer in 2019 that it would no longer take any advertisements from them to publicise training contracts it was offering. Over the last 2 years, Audley Chaucer have offered 4 training contracts to University of Law trained students and were recently seeking another 2 students. Those places were filled by students from a University of Law competitor.
One legal observer commented “It will be a source of enormous professional and personal embarrassment to the University of Law and its advisers that they overlooked and failed to register the ‘UniLaw’ brand in this way. Perhaps the greatest irony is that the University of Law teaches trademark law to its students notwithstanding its own blunders……..” https://www.law.ac.uk/employability/legal-practice-areas/intellectual-property-law/
The recent decision has found against the University of Law in almost every single objection raised by them. The litigation has been described by another legal observer as one “akin to David and Goliath, with the consequence that the University of Law has suffered a humiliating and expensive defeat”. In an almost unprecedented step, the University of Law were ordered to pay £2700 towards UniLaw’s legal costs
Founder of UniLaw Virginia states, “We have already received 2 substantial offers for the ‘UniLaw’ trademark and brand from University of Law competitors. For now, I am not inclined to accept as I wish to develop the UniLaw concept and help thousands more students get into the right law school”.
Should you require any further information on this matter, or to discuss trademark cases in general, please contact John Szepietowski at Audley Chaucer Solicitors on 01372 303444.
The legal team in this case were:
- Mr John Szepietowski solicitor with Audley Chaucer
- Ms Rosario Valdez Knight – Trademark attorney with Trademark Eagle Legal Limited as advisors to Audley Chaucer
- Ms Georgina Messenger Barrister at Three New Square
For University of Law
- Mr Apostolos Dakanalis trademark attorney with HGF Limited
Read the story and Notice of Decision published in the Law Gazette.