Valley Forge Military Academy and College has sued a group of disgruntled alumni, alleging that the group infringed on the institution's copyrighted symbols and images on its Web site and literature.
It's the latest salvo in an increasingly bitter feud between the Radnor institution and some alumni who are at odds with the school's leadership and direction.
The complaint, 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 and College Alumni Association, 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 an 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 alumnus.
The breakaway alumni group has not filed its response in court, but Pete Robinson, its president, called the suit "baseless" and "legal intimidation."
He said the group had responded to the school's requests to remove campus photographs from its Web site. It also changed its name to the Founders Old Guard this month after the institution demanded it drop Valley Forge from its name, Web site, and letterheads.
Valley Forge spokesman John Miller said the institution had to go to court because the alumni group had ignored letters that it stop using copyrighted 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, a former health and marketing executive, the school's first civilian president.
The alumni group gathered more than 1,000 signatures on petitions calling for McGeorge's ouster and last month urged the state to investigate allegations that administrators and the school's board had mismanaged private funding 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.