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January 16, 2013 10:00 AM East Carolina University: Tomorrow Ends Here

By Daniel Luzer

East Carolina University is apparently suing Cisco Systems for the use of Cisco’s slogan, arguing that the college essentially pioneered the use of the phrase “Tomorrow Starts Here,” which Cisco started using in December. According to a piece at All Things D:

North Carolina’s second-largest college, East Carolina University, based in Greenville, N.C., announced today that it has sued Cisco in federal court — it didn’t specify which court — for trademark infringement.
“ECU has used the mark ‘Tomorrow Starts Here’ for over a decade, including in national advertisements and publications such as Forbes and Wired,” the university’s chancellor, Steve Ballard, said in a statement. “We feel it is essential to take action to protect that defining trademark of our identity and vision.”

TomorrowLand

Right. Because that ambiguous future-y line is totally yours, East Carolina University.

This lawsuit, unlike the University of Southern California’s “USC” lawsuit, is unlikely to work out well for ECU. In order to prove trademark infringement, an institution must prove that the trademark “is likely to cause consumer confusion.” That’s not really happening here, because Cisco is a multinational company that designs, manufactures, and sells networking equipment. And ECU is a public college in North Carolina.

WadOMoney

In addition, that “tomorrow starts here” line is so meaningless and dumb that pretty much any college or company could use it effectively.

East High School: Tomorrow Starts Here. Pete’s Heating and Plumbing: Tomorrow Starts Here. See, it works for everything.

Incidentally East Carolina’s actual motto is “to serve.” The motto is pretty similar to those of East Stroudsburg University, Queens University of Charlotte, Queens College, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. East Carolina’s pirate mascot is used by at least four other institutions of higher learning, not to mention the major league baseball team of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer