Springboards for Education strikes out again…

Springboards for Education is a Texas corporation that sells educational materials to encourage children to read.  In particular they market the Read a Million Words Campaign.  Springboards has taken four court cases to the 5th Circuit accusing school districts of infringing on its trademark, by offering similarly worded programs, offering kids rewards for reading a million words. 

They sued Houston ISD and lost. They sued Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD and lost. They sued McAllen ISD and lost.  They sued the IDEA Charter schools and lost. 

Suits alleging trademark infringement require proof that the defendant has created confusion in the marketplace.  In the Springboards cases the courts have consistently held that there is little chance of confusion.  The latest opinion, which combined the cases against McAllen and IDEA, included this Wonderful Word Nugget:

To assess whether confusion is likely, we consider a flexible list of factors called the digits of confusion.

“The digits of confusion.”  Is that good, or what?!?!?!  Sounds like the name of a punk rock band.

This latest decision will be studied by law school professors because of its lengthy discussion about sovereign immunity of public schools and public charter schools. The court ended up holding that neither McAllen ISD nor IDEA charter school was immune from suit under the 11th Amendment.  However, both defendants were entitled to Summary Judgment on the trademark issue. 

That sovereign immunity issue is for the Legal Eggheads to deal with.  As for me, I shall think of this case as the “digits of confusion” case. That’s what makes it Dawgworthy.

Springboards to Education, Inc. v. McAllen ISD and Springboards to Education, Inc. v. IDEA Public Schools were decided by the 5th Circuit on March 8, 2023. 


Got a question or comment for the Dawg?  Let me hear from you at jwalsh@wabsa.com

Tomorrow: another qualified immunity case…