Former Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. is suing the college for allegedly exploiting the trademark and image of his father, Jerry Falwell Sr., who founded the Evangelical Christian university in 1971.
"This is an action arising from Liberty University's unauthorized exploitation of the JERRY FALWELL trademark and the name, picture, and/or portrait (together 'name or image') of Jerry Falwell in advertising and promoting Liberty University, without consulting with the Falwell family and without the authorization of the Dr. Jerry L. Falwell Family Trust," the 24-page lawsuit filed in Virginia last Thursday alleges.
According to The Christian Post, Liberty University has not responded to requests for comment but said in a statement that the college "will ultimately prevail in this case, and the university will be able to maintain its use of the name of its founder."
The lawsuit says Liberty University has been exploiting the brand for itself, including the senior Falwell's handwriting.
"For more than fifty years, the distinctive JERRY FALWELL trademark has stood as a nationally recognizable symbol for the late Dr. Jerry L. Falwell's brand of religious goods and services. Upon his passing in 2007, Dr. Falwell left his valuable JERRY FALWELL trademark in a trust for the benefit of his three children. Liberty, however, has recently begun to misappropriate the Trust's valuable trademark – and Dr. Falwell's name and image – for itself," the lawsuit alleges.
The suit adds that the school did not consult the Falwell family about using Falwell's name and likeness.
Three years ago, Falwell Jr. was forced to resign as the president of Liberty University after allegations surfaced that he and his wife had an affair with 29-year-old Giancarlo Granda.
Granda allegedly tried to blackmail the couple, saying that Falwell Jr. knew about his wife's affair.
Falwell Jr. has previously sued the university, saying he is owed $8.5 million in retirement funds. In a previous statement, Liberty University said it is confident it is "not legally required to pay these funds and will file the appropriate responses with the federal court."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla/Staff
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.