Judge vacates judgment in CLNC® certification mark case; mark not invalid
By Tommy Sangchompuphen, JD, and Dan Clifford, publisher
© 2007 The Medical-Legal News
The Medical-Legal News reported in its previous issue that a U.S. District Court in Texas invalidated Medical-Legal Consulting Institute’s CLNC certification mark, stripping the mark of any protections under federal trademark law. (See Medical-Legal Consulting Institute, Inc. v. Evans & Associates, LTD and Ann Evans, Civil Action H-06-0320, Aug. 29, 2007).
However, three weeks after MLCI filed a notice of appeal, MLCI and Evans settled their dispute and asked the court to vacate its judgment, which it did.
MLCI had sought to block Evans’ registration of RLNC, the Evans certification mark, arguing that it was too similar to CLNC. But the judge focused on the deficiencies with CLNC, precluding the need to tackle the blockage issue.
U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes reasoned that the CLNC mark, an acronym for Certified Legal Nurse Consultant, was simply a generic title without secondary meaning as it was a mix of common nouns and a modifier already widely used in legal nurse consulting. And he noted, “CLNC is not valid because it does not function as a certification. It is merely an embellishment Medical-Legal gives its graduates — just like a degree.”
The court, by agreement of the parties, vacated the judgment and dismissed the case with prejudice. As a result of the court’s action, there is no active or pending court case regarding the CLNC mark, the CLNC certification or its use by nurses.
Legal experts view the parties’ joint motion to vacate as possibly an attempt to prevent both CLNC and RLNC from being invalidated as trademarks. The vacated judgment does not stop others from challenging the marks.
The American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants, which confers the LNCC® acronym to LNCs, issued a statement to assure its members that the litigation did not affect the LNCC mark.
The AALNC distinguished its mark by saying, “As the professional not-for-profit organization for this specialty, we strictly adhere to the definitions regarding certification and accreditation as set forward by the American Board of Nursing Specialties.”
The statement expressed confidence that the AALNC was meeting the standards set forward by the Trademark Act.
Rose Clifford, RN, LNCC, a nurse consultant and the editor of this newspaper, filed an amicus brief opposing the vacatur of the judgment.
“This would have been good case law and would have cleared the confusion about certifications in the LNC community,” Clifford said.