To help crack down on for-profit colleges and universities using fraudulent tactics to enroll military veterans, President Barak Obama is turning to trademark law. The White House recently announced that the President will sign an executive order that, among other things, orders the Department of Veterans Affairs to register “GI Bill” as a trademark.
“Since the Post-9/11 GI Bill became law, there have been reports of aggressive and deceptive targeting of service members, veterans, and their families by educational institutions, particularly for-profit career colleges,” said a White House statement.
According to the Obama Administration, some schools use the phrase GI Bill on their websites and marketing materials to suggest the program’s benefits are only valid at certain schools. By trademarking the phrase, the federal government will be able to restrict its use in marketing and advertising, particularly in ways that are designed to mislead veterans.
Of course, this is not the first time fraudsters have tried to tread on the name of a government agency or program to make a profit. For example, private companies not associated with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office are using trademark application and registration information from the USPTO’s databases to mail or e-mail trademark-related solicitations that purport to be from a government agency.
As these scams demonstrate, consumers can never be too careful. In addition, organizations should not ignore the value of intellectual property as a valuable tool in their arsenal for combatting fraud.