KIPP Charter Schools in trademark dispute…..

Springboards to Education, Inc. has sued three entities associated with the KIPP Charter schools. The three are: KIPP Foundation, KIPP, Inc., and KIPP Texas Schools.  The suit is over trademark infringement.

Springboards created the “Read a Million Words Campaign” that encourages kids in schools to read 1,000,000 words by the end of the school year. Springboards markets a slew of educational products related to this campaign.  To protect its intellectual property, Springboards has registered several trademarks, including “Read a Million Words”; “Millionaire Reader”; and “Millionaire’s Reading Club.”  Springboards sued KIPP, accusing it of infringing on this trademark by using terms similar to this in social media posts.

The suit alleged violations of both state and federal law.  In a recent decision, the federal court dismissed all of the state law claims against one of those three entities—KIPP, Inc.  The court noted that KIPP, Inc., as an open enrollment charter school, has the same legal protection from lawsuits that traditional schools enjoy.  Traditional schools, and charters, are not just immune from liability—they are immune from the lawsuit in the first place.  Thus the court held that it lacked jurisdiction to further consider any claims under state law against KIPP, Inc.

The claims against the other two entities, and the claims under federal law are another matter.  The court also dismissed those claims, but did so “without prejudice.” This means that Springboards will have the opportunity to re-state its case to fix the problem that the court noted. The problem was that the lawsuit did not itemize specifically what each of the three defendants did to violate the trademark laws.  So the court gave Springboards an opportunity to re-plead the case to fix this problem.

The case is Springboards to Education, Inc. v. KIPP Foundation, decided by the federal court for the Northern District of Texas on September 7, 2017.  We found it at 2017 WL 3917701.