The Volokh Conspiracy

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Now There's a Trademark Issue for You

"They should be paying us for burnishment—not suing us for tarnishment."


From the University of Richmond School of Law Intellectual Property Institute:

April 1, 2022

Richmond, Virginia—The Intellectual Property Institute (IPI) at the University of Richmond School of Law announced that it has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia against the Center for Law & Intellectual Property (CLIP) at Texas A&M University School of Law. The lawsuit seeks to prevent CLIP from continuing to violate the IPI's rights in its well-known "Evil Twin Debate" trademark.

Founded in 2004, the IPI is a dynamic and respected center for the study of contemporary intellectual property issues. The Evil Twin Debate is its marquee national event, which it has hosted every year since 2007. "The debate has been a prominent part of our public programming for more than a decade," stated IPI executive director Christa Pechora Poirot. "Its distinctive format brings together pairs of experts who disagree on an important topic but who can air their disagreements in a friendly exchange-serious in substance but lighthearted in tone. It's very important to our brand."

Late last year, the IPI became aware that CLIP was using the tagline "Shaping Debate" to promote its own intellectual property center. Despite a friendly request to choose a term other than "Debate," CLIP persisted in its use. "It's still right there in their marketing materials," noted Poirot. "It's right at the top."

According to Poirot, "Like any trademark owner, we take our brand seriously-and we have an obligation to our students, faculty, alumni, and donors to police it to the maximum extent of the law. We simply cannot afford to see our trademark rights violated by another school." The lawsuit states claims for trademark infringement and dilution by tarnishment.

For more information, please contact Christa Pechora Poirot at

And a prompt response from the Texas A & M School of Law Intellectual Property Center:


Fort Worth, Texas—April 1, 2022

The Center for Law and Intellectual Property at Texas A&M University School of Law intends to vigorously defend against recent allegations that it violated the University of Richmond's trademark rights.

"We learned today that the University of Richmond has filed suit against us for allegedly violating their supposed rights in the term 'Evil Twin Debate,'" said Pru Keety, director of operations for CLIP. Until recently, Keety was the executive director at another nationally regarded IP program. "We also plan to demonstrate that any association between our IP center and theirs can only enhance Richmond's image," Keety added.

"They should be paying us for burnishment—not suing us for tarnishment."

In the past five years, peer surveys conducted by U.S. News and World Report have ranked Texas A&M continuously among the top 10 intellectual property law programs in the United States. The Center combines classroom time with hands-on experience to prepare its J.D. and graduate students to navigate the complex legal issues surrounding patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets.

The case was filed in federal court in Virginia. Keety is consulting with attorneys for the law school, but she predicts that they will file a motion asking for the case to be dismissed outright, and that the court will likely grant it. "We'll be fighting the allegations on Richmond's home turf, but I am nevertheless confident that our superior understanding of the applicable law will convince the judge," asserted Keety. "In fact, they can't even get their complaint right: 'Evil Twin Debate' is a service mark, not a trademark. Goes to show how well those clowns at Richmond know their IP law."


Media contacts: Abrahan Baku Shivsthu,

I should note that a possible request for Rule 11 sanctions would likely be met with a Rule 4(1) defense.