Small veterans charity sued for ‘unfair competition’ by Wounded Warrior Project
The founder of a small Pennsylvania charity that helps wounded warriors in that state says the group spent more than $72,000 defending a lawsuit by the Wounded Warrior Project over their similar logos.
“We’re very short on cash and I’m sure they’ve got plenty,” said Paul Spurgin, the manager of Keystone Wounded Warriors and a Marine who served two combat tours in Vietnam.
The problem is the similarity of charity logos. The famous Wounded Warrior Project logo shows the silhouette of one soldier carrying another on his back.
The Keystone Wounded Warriors logo is also a silhouette of soldiers, but shows one dragging another on the ground. In a federal lawsuit, the Wounded Warrior Project said it “suffered irreparable harm to its business, goodwill, reputation and profits” from the Pennsylvania charity’s logo.
The Wounded Warrior Project said the Pennsylvania charity’s trademark would likely “confuse” donors. In the most recent tax records available, the Wounded Warrior Project reported income of $234,682,943. Keystone Wounded Warriors’ income was $211,141, which is less than Wounded Warrior Project CEO Steve Nardizzi’s salary.
Nardizzi told NewsChannel 3 that most charities change their logos or names when asked. He said he vigorously protects the brand as it is among the charity’s most valuable assets.
“Our logo is pretty sacred to us. It represents everything we believe in as an organization,” he said.
Spurgin said his charity once partnered with the Wounded Warrior Project and raised funds for it. Later, he and others decided to start a charity for Pennsylvania veterans. He said a high school student designed the logo and the Keystone Wounded Warriors got a trademark.
Court documents show the Wounded Warrior Project objected and was later sued. Spurgin says he and his colleagues have decided to defend their mark.
“As veterans, and especially as Marines, we don’t turn around and run,” he said.
He said what is most unfortunate is that the two charities have spent money in court that could have been better spent helping veterans.
“If we fight, the warrior suffers,” he said. “And our philosophy is that it’s not about us. It’s about the people we serve. It’s about them.”
Nardizzi said trademark protection is so important that in this case it meant suing another charity that also provides services to wounded warriors.
“We need to be protective when people design logos, use names and act in a way that could confuse the minds of the public, leading them to believe (another charity) is the Wounded Warrior Project when they’re not,” Nardizzi said.
Spurgin told NewsChannel 3 last week that the two sides had reached an agreement. He said all they were waiting for were signatures from Wounded Warrior Project lawyers. In an email Wednesday to NewsChannel 3, a spokeswoman for the Wounded Warrior Project denied this and added that there could be consequences for Keystone Wounded Warriors because Spurgin spoke publicly.
“More recently, we met and thought we had reached a mutual agreement,” wrote Ayla Hay, executive vice president. “However, in light of Mr Spurgin’s decision to go on TV and talk about us, we now question his desire to resolve the issue.”
When asked if Spurgin’s participation in our story would affect the resolution of the lawsuit, Hay replied: “Mr. Spurgin’s current behavior and misrepresentations indicate that he is acting in bad faith as he did. since he stopped fundraising for WWP. We will certainly have to consider Mr. Spurgin’s motives as we consider a settlement.”