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Florida Virtual School heads to state Supreme Court over name lawsuit

Published Oct. 16, 2013

Florida Virtual School has used its name and initials, FLVS, as part of its marketing and branding since 2002. It got trademarks a year later.

Then along came K12 Inc. about a decade later, aiming to grab a piece of the state's online education program under laws permitting charter virtual schools. It called itself Florida Virtual Academy.

FLVS was not amused by the similarity. Its leaders sued in 2011, alleging trademark infringement. The U.S. District Court of Appeal has found the matter to run up against conflicting Florida law, and referred the case to the Florida Supreme Court:

"On the one hand, Florida VirtualSchool's right to acquire, enjoy, use, license, and dispose of trademarks, as set forth in § 1002.37(2)(c), would appear to fully encompass the rights attendant to ownership, including the right to protect those ownership interests.... On the other hand, the rights of the Department of State with respect to trademarks (and other intellectual property) do not seem to contemplate a co-equal partner. First, § 286.021 vests in the Department of State all "legal title and every right [and] interest" in trademarks."

The appellate judges called the issue headed to the state's top court an important one relating to the intellectual property of state agencies and departments. They certified this question for the Florida Supreme Court to consider:

"Does Florida VirtualSchool's statutory authority to "acquire, enjoy, use, and dispose of . . . trademarks and any licenses and other rights or interests thereunder or therein" necessarily include the authority to bring suit to protect those trademarks, or is that authority vested only in the Department of State?"

See the court docket and documents here.