Cisco/ECU: Tomorrow Stops Here?

College sues networking king over trademarked slogan

Cisco is usually at the forefront of advancements in Internet technology.

In branding slogans, not so much.

East Carolina University is suing Cisco "in federal court," according to a statement from the school, for trademark infringement. ECU alleges the networking titan's new "Tomorrow Starts Here" campaign steals a slogan the school's been using for a decade.

ECU did not state which federal court the suit is filed in.

"ECU has used the mark 'Tomorrow Starts Here' for over a decade, including in national advertisements and publications such as Forbes and Wired," said Chancellor Steve Ballard. "We feel it is essential to take action to protect that defining trademark of our identity and vision."

The school is seeking injunctive relief and damages for the unauthorized use of what it claims is its federally registered trademark. ECU says the slogan is a university-wide brand that represents "an overlapping field of goods and services when compared with that of Cisco."

For example, research initiatives through ECU's College of Technology and Computer Science have created products and intellectual property that are actively being commercialized. ECU is also a leader in the field of distance education technology that is heavily promoted through ECU's global online education program using the mark "Tomorrow Starts Here."

In an e-mail, a Cisco spokesperson said ECU's action blindsided the company.

"We were surprised to learn that East Carolina University filed a complaint this morning," the spokesperson stated. "Cisco takes intellectual property rights very seriously, and we are confident that our new campaign does not create any confusion in the marketplace."

Cisco launched its "Tomorrow Starts Here" campaign last month amidst proclamations that it wanted to foster an "Internet of Everything" by connecting the 99% of the physical world that isn't already networked. Cisco also said at the time that it wanted to become the No. 1 IT company by bolstering its software and services expertise.

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