East Carolina University reports it has filed a lawsuit in federal court "to protect its trademarks and brands from unauthorized use by the owner of a Greenville publication and website called HealthyPirates.com."
The owner of HealthyPirates.com is Roy Hopkins Jr.
The suit, filed Friday, alleges that the website's owner, Roy Hopkins Jr., "engaged in trademark infringement,cyberpiracy and unfair competition."
"The university has made every effort to resolve this issue without going to court," said Paul Zigas, ECU's senior associate university attorney. "We have tried unsuccessfully to persuade Mr. Hopkins to stop the practices that we allege violate both federal and state laws. Unfortunately, the university is left with no alternative but to litigate this matter.”
WITN spoke with Hopkins Monday afternoon.
Hopkins tells WITN he met with ECU about a year ago, and claims they agreed he could use the words "healthy pirates," as well as the colors and images as long as he used a disclaimer. Hopkins said he has used the disclaimer as instructed. He also says he is using the colors purple and what is called Tennessee orange, not gold.
Hopkins said he didn't hear from ECU again until about a month ago, when he got a letter from the university. He said it was a shock.
"I don't know what the deal is," Hopkins said. "Now they've taken it to a whole new level."
Hopkins said he was born in Greenville, is a lifelong Pirate fan and graduated from ECU in 2006, and that he has been dealing with the university forever.
Hopkins, who owns a personal trainer business, said his interest in fitness and health is what prompted him to start the website. He says it's been up since 2009.
Hopkins said he is in the process of hiring an attorney.
Both the ECU Board of Trustees and the University of North Carolina Board of Governors approved the lawsuit filing.
"It is very important to protect your brand," said David Brody, chair of the ECU Board of Trustees.
A news release from ECU states Zigas said the university believes that the "HealthyPirates.com" publication and website use marks and colors that are confusingly similar to familiar ECU logos, colors, and registered trademarks, such as the skull and crossbones and the words "East Carolina University Pirates" above a saber. In addition, he said, the term "Healthy Pirates" has been used for at least 10 years by an ECU student organization that promotes health and wellness. The "Healthy Pirates" name is a university-owned trademark, he said, and ECU is a nationally respected provider of medical services, including for the people of eastern North Carolina and Greenville. Zigas noted that the university, through its licensing partner, the Collegiate Licensing Co., frequently addresses trademark matters with commercial enterprises that intentionally or inadvertently misuse university-owned marks, and successful resolutions are reached in the majority of cases without the need to resort to litigation.
"We regret that we have not been able to reach an agreement with Mr. Hopkins, but the University will do what is necessary to protect its reputation, good will and intellectual property rights," Zigas said.