Baylor University has rejected a settlement offer proposed by the Baylor Alumni Association to resolve a trademark infringement dispute, a move that will send the parties into litigation.
The BAA made the offer to the university’s board of regents in September in response to a lawsuit Baylor filed against the group in June, which alleges that the alumni association is improperly using the university’s name and registered trademarks.
“Regrettably, we have learned that the Board of Regents has rejected this offer,” BAA President Keith Starr said in a written statement.
“The BAA is extremely reluctant to be dragged into lengthy and costly litigation. Nevertheless, we believe the Board of Regents’ claims are without merit. We intend to defend ourselves vigorously — in court.”
Starr told the Tribune-Herald the regents announced their decision a few weeks ago, but he did not recall the specific date.
Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said the university was aware of the situation but would not comment specifically on the settlement proposal or lawsuit.
“We’re focused on celebrating the great progress and many successes of our great university and continuing to build Baylor,” Fogleman said.
Before the September offer, the two organizations spent most of the summer attempting to negotiate a separate settlement, but those talks ultimately failed.
Starr, who is not related to the university’s president and chancellor, declined to disclose the terms of the settlement offer but said it followed the framework of the earlier talks this summer. The offer had been approved by the BAA’s board of directors and would have gone to the full organization had the regents approved it.
“It addressed four areas that we thought were important to allow us to move forward,” Starr said. “This has to do with trying to maintain some kind of discourse here (with the university).”
Starr said the regents previously aired frustration about the speed of the BAA’s approval process, which involves both the directors and the full membership before a measure can go into effect, in accordance with the group’s bylaws.
In 2013, a team of leaders from Baylor’s board of regents and the BAA’s former executive committee hashed out a transition agreement that would have dissolved the BAA and transferred much of its alumni outreach activities to Baylor. The agreement would have allowed for the creation of a separate organization to continue publishing the group’s “The Baylor Line” alumni magazine as well as an alumni advisory committee that would report to the board of regents.
But the agreement failed for lack of sufficient support from BAA members, who voted on the issue in person last fall. Baylor in December then moved to terminate the licensing agreements that permitted the BAA to use the university’s name and trademarks.
The BAA has continued operating with the trademarks, including printing an issue of “The Baylor Line” in May. The group has argued that Baylor does not have the right to unilaterally sever the licensing agreements.
The BAA filed a counterclaim against Baylor’s suit in August, seeking a ruling compelling the university to uphold a previous official recognition agreement that established the BAA as Baylor’s official alumni organization.
Starr expects the lawsuit to move to the evidential discovery phase before a trial date is ultimately set.