By Ashley Springer
In September, students living in the apartment complex known as Aggie Flats received an email saying the apartment had officially changed its name to Alpine Flats. The change came at the request of Utah State University, which is consolidating its hold on the word “Aggie.”
This is “part of an ongoing business scrub that we’re doing,” said Heidi Adams, the Utah State University trademark and licensing director, “so any businesses that are using our names or trademarks or things that are owned by the university, we’re going out and meeting with those people and making sure that either they’re not using it or that they have a contract and a license to do so.”
Alpine Flats is owned by Nelson Brothers Property Management, which has come under fire recently in relation to another student housing unit, once called Aggie Factory. The complex now known as The Factory is still under construction, even though renters were told it would be ready for this school year, causing many students to be without a place to live at the beginning of the semester.
“When we sat down and met with them, we found out they owned both companies so we addressed them using ‘Aggies’ on both housing establishments at the same time,” Adams said. “They had made up marketing materials with ‘Aggie Factory’ and ‘Aggie Flats’ on there so we gave them a grace period to use those items and then followed up with a take-down notice.”
A corporate official of Alpine Flats sent an email to the property manager Rachel Romney concerning the name change. “The name Aggie is not allowed to be used per the school,” the official wrote. “We respect exactly where they’re coming from so we changed the name to Alpine Flats.”
The request for a change in name was not due to any conflict between the university and Alpine Flats. “Utah State does not have any problems with The Flats at all,” Adams said.
Tyler Goucher, a Salt Lake City attorney specializing in patent, copyright and trademark law, said he believes Utah State has “a legitimate claim for the name ‘Aggies.’”
“They would have a common law trademark,” he said. A common law trademark occurs when a business or organization is the first to use a trademark in its state commerce, and as a result the business will be given the rights to the trademark without formally registering.
According to Goucher, two entities can own the same trademark if the services provided are unrelated. However, once an organization’s trademark becomes well known it receives a broader protection in order to prevent consumer confusion.
Maddie Christensen, a student who lives in Alpine Flats, said she was “kind of indifferent” to the change. “I think it’s kind of funny,” she said. “But I don’t know… I liked the name Aggie Flats.”