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P&S Journal

P&S Journal: Winter 1997, Vol.17, No.1
P & S News
Columbia Sues to Protect Name

Columbia University filed suit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan in September against Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corporation, a for-profit hospital chain, for trademark infringement and unfair competition.

A national advertising campaign by the for-profit company is openly developing "Columbia" as a trademark and trade name for its network of hospitals and health care facilities that have no connection to Columbia University or Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. The suit seeks to prevent the for-profit company from using the Columbia name to promote its medical services.

The suit against Columbia/HCA states that Columbia, long one of the world's leading research and teaching universities in a wide variety of fields, including medicine, has made use of the Columbia name and offered courses of instruction in medicine and related health fields for more than 200 years.

Since 1767, Columbia, or its predecessor, King's College, has offered instruction in medicine and was the first university in the American Colonies to grant the M.D. degree. Since 1891, Columbia's medical school has operated under the name Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons and, in 1921, the college allied with Presbyterian Hospital to form the world's first academic medical center--Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. The Columbia name is one of the most prestigious in American medicine, ranking with such peer institutions as Harvard, Yale, Johns Hopkins, Baylor, and the Mayo Clinic. Such institutions provide the highest caliber of medical care in the world and are renowned for leadership in medicine and advances in medical science.

The suit against Columbia/HCA states that a short-hand reference to "Columbia doctors" or "Columbia medicine" has long been identified exclusively--on international, national, and local levels--with Columbia University and the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, a not-for-profit academic medical center.

The for-profit company has created direct name conflict, such as renaming the Presbyterian Hospital in Oklahoma as "The Columbia Presbyterian Hospital" and the University Hospital in Tamarac, Fla., as "The Columbia-University Hospital." In addition, Columbia/HCA introduced a nationwide medical information service using the telephone number "1-800-Columbia."

The suit states that the use of the Columbia name in reference to physicians, medical care, hospitals, and clinical services will inevitably lead to confusion in the public mind and will infringe upon the exclusive identity the name confers on Columbia University and its medical faculty at Columbia-Presbyterian. Prospective patients may believe that physicians have appointments at Columbia-Presbyterian and that they will be obtaining the quality and highly advanced care associated with the Columbia and Columbia-Presbyterian names.

The suit seeks a permanent injunction against use of the Columbia name as a trademark by Columbia/HCA in connection with the provision of hospital, ambulatory care, home care, physicians, and related health services. It also asks that Columbia/HCA be ordered to account to the plaintiff for and pay all gains, profits and advantages generated from the use of the Columbia name.


copyright ©, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center

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