Valley Forge Military Academy & College has sued a group of disgruntled alumni, charging that the group infringed on the institution's copyrighted symbols and images on its website and literature.
It's the latest salvo in an increasingly bitter feud between the Radnor institution and some alumni who are odds with the school's current leadership and direction.
The complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court last Friday, alleges that the Valley Forge Old Guard Inc. and four of its officers used copyrighted images, photos and words to deceive alumni, parents and others into thinking the Old Guard was affiliated with the military school and college and was authorized to represent alumni.
The suit maintains the group's "unlawful" conduct has caused "irreparable harm and other damage" to the Valley Forge Military Academy Foundation and to the Valley Forge Military Academy & College Alumni Association, which is the official alumni organization.
"We have a responsibility to protect the school's name and trademarks," Niles P. Dally, chairman of Valley Forge's official alumni association, wrote in a a recent e-mail to Valley Forge graduates informing them of the suit.
"Improper use of trademarks causes confusion and damages the goodwill and the good name of the owner," said Dally, a 1963 alum.
The breakaway alumni group has not yet filed its response in court, but Pete Robinson, president of that group labelled the suit as "baseless" and "legal intimidation."
He said the group has responded to the school's requests to remove campus photographs from its web site. It also changed its name to the "Founders Old Guard" earlier this month after the institution demanded it drop "Valley Forge" from its name, website and letterheads.
Valley Forge spokesman John Miller said the institution had to go to court because the alumni group had ignored letters that they stop using copyright material.
The alumni group has been at odds with the leadership and direction of Valley Forge since July 2005, when trustees named Charles A. "Tony" McGeorge president. A former health and marketing executive, McGeorge is the school's first civilian president.
The alumni group gathered over 1,000 signatures on petitions calling for McGeorge's ouster and last month urged the state to investigate claims that administrators and the school's board had mismanaged private funds and money from state grants.
Valley Forge was founded in 1928 as a private, all-male college-prep boarding school. The two-year college later became coed. This year there are 307 students from seventh grade through postgraduate at the military academy and 219 cadets at the junior college.