The Baylor Alumni Association has filed a counterclaim to a trademark infringement lawsuit Baylor University filed against the group in June.
BAA is seeking a judgment compelling Baylor to uphold its obligations under an official recognition agreement, which it says establishes the BAA as the university’s official alumni association.
The organization also wants a ruling preventing Baylor from continuing to operate its Baylor Alumni Network, which the lawsuit alleges was created to undermine the BAA’s alumni outreach and communication activities.
In a press release, BAA President Keith Starr, who is no relation to Baylor President Ken Starr, said the group has spent about a month trying to work out a settlement with Baylor, but those talks have failed.
Julie Hillrichs, a spokeswoman for the BAA, said attorneys for Baylor’s board of regents gave the BAA until Thursday to approve a settlement offer. But the alumni association appealed to extend the agreement until Sept. 6 so it could adopt new bylaws, a process that requires approval by two-thirds of its members, then take a full membership vote on the agreement.
The regents denied the request. The BAA filed its answer and counterclaim Wednesday in McLennan County’s 74th State District Court.
“At the end of the day, our efforts at peace failed, and the timetable insisted on by the regents was unworkable,” Keith Starr said in the press release. “Now, we must reluctantly, but resolutely, defend the claims made against us and prosecute our counterclaims.”
The BAA said the terms of the settlement offer must remain confidential.
Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said in an email: “Over the course of the last two years, Baylor’s administration and Board of Regents have proactively engaged the alumni association in negotiations. Our most recent discussions were with yet another group of leaders appointed by the association for this purpose. Regrettably, our attempts at resolution have been unsuccessful.
“Sadly, the association appears to be unable to chart for itself or to otherwise approve a productive course forward in support of Baylor University and its students. The association’s actions today are disappointing to us all.”
Baylor’s lawsuit alleges that the BAA no longer has rights to use its name and licensed marks after the university moved to terminate licensing agreements with the alumni group in the fall.
The school is seeking a judgment barring the group from continuing to hold itself out as the university’s official alumni association and injunctive relief “to limit BAA’s purposes by reformation to provide only financial aid to Baylor students.”
The university severed the arrangements after a failed attempt to approve a transition agreement that would have dissolved the BAA, allowed Baylor to assume most of the group’s alumni outreach activities and created a Baylor Line Corp. to continue producing the BAA’s The Baylor Line alumni magazine.
In its counterclaim, the BAA alleges Baylor is in violation of its agreements with the alumni group.
“Over the years, the relationship between the BAA and the university cherished by its members has soured,” the counterclaim says.
“Baylor’s administration and Board of Regents, determined to silence the BAA’s independent voice and to seize control of alumni relations and fundraising, embarked on a course toward the destruction of the independent BAA and the usurpation of its functions by the university. Baylor’s filing of this suit was the culmination of the effort to destroy the BAA.”