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The National College Resources Foundation (“NCRF”) is a California-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit and purported owner of the registered BLACK COLLEGE EXPO trademark.

Ivy Tech Community College (“Ivy Tech”), a two-year community college serving over 75 Indiana communities, allegedly used the phrase “Black College Expo” to describe an enrollment event held on its South Bend campus in January 2023. NCRF’s counsel sent a cease-and-desist in December 2022 and Ivy Tech promptly agreed to stop using the phrase but did not do so, apparently using it again in a January 9 Instagram post.

Apparently not satisfied with Ivy Tech’s response (notably during a holiday period when many college employees would not be working or even checking email), NCRF now brings a federal trademark lawsuit against Ivy Tech seeking $2,000,000 as well as punitive damages.

The BLACK COLLEGE EXPO registration is actually owned by a California individual named Theresa Price, apparently the founder and CEO of the National College Resources Foundation. The unsigned Complaint (see below) does not reference any license between Mrs. Price and the organization but presumably that does exist. The registration also includes a disclaimer of the descriptive term “EXPO.”

Should this lawsuit go far enough, I’d expect Ivy Tech and the other defendants to assert that they were not using “BLACK COLLEGE EXPO” as a source-identifying trademark and rather simply as a non-source-identifying descriptive term. However, it’s more likely that the community college (via instructions from its insurance provider) will back down and pay some nominal settlement amount to quickly resolve the lawsuit. The Complaint also includes as defendants two organizations connected to the Ivy Tech event, Mentoring Moments and The Strong Friend. I’m guessing both of those organizations have better ways to spend their funds than fighting a federal lawsuit.

Stay tuned for updates.

National College Resources Foundation v. The Strong Friends LLC et al.

Court Case Number: 3:23-cv-00367-JD-MGG
File Date: May 4, 2023
Plaintiff: National College Resources Foundation
Plaintiff Counsel: Justin A. Smith, Esq. of National College Resources Foundation
Defendant: The Strong Friends LLC, Mentoring Moments, LLC, Ivy Tech Community College
Cause: Federal Trademark Counterfeiting, Federal Trademark Infringement, False Designation of Origin, False Descriptions and Representations, Common Law Trademark Infringement, Common Law Unfair Competition
Court: Northern District of Indiana
Judge: Jon E. DeGuilio
Referred To: Michael G. Gotsch, Sr.