Metro State University, a public university located in Denver, Colorado, announced plans in March to introduce state legislation that would allow it to change its name to Denver State University. The University of Denver, a private university located just a few miles from Metro State's campus, is not a fan of the proposed name change.

The University of Denver alleges that the name Denver State University is likely to cause confusion between the schools among consumers; in other words, the University of Denver alleges that Metro State's use of the mark DENVER STATE UNIVERSITY would infringe its UNIVERSITY OF DENVER mark. While a suit has not been filed - the legislation will not be introduced until 2012 - the Denver Post reports the schools have exchanged increasingly contentious correspondence.

The dispute between the schools is interesting because there are literally hundreds of colleges and universities in the United States that co-exist with "similarly named" institutions. For example, there is a "[STATE NAME] State University" for almost every "University of [STATE NAME]" (Colorado State University/University of Colorado; Iowa State University/University of Iowa; Florida State University/University of Florida). These institutions co-exist without confusion among consumers. Indeed, the alumni of these universities might be downright offended if you confused their alma mater with that of their similarly named rival.

On the other hand, most similarly named colleges and universities have co-existed for decades or longer. While they aren't going to object to a similar name they have co-existed with for many years, they might object to a new-comer that adopts such a name. Moreover, most colleges and universities have developed and established unique academic programs, athletic departments, logos and color schemes that have grown to distinguish them - and their name - from similarly named counterparts. Metro State would have to "start from scratch" in distinguishing DENVER STATE UNIVERSITY from the UNIVERSITY OF DENVER.

Many of the co-existing similarly named schools in the United States are public universities that are established and overseen by the same state legislature, thereby avoiding the potential for litigation between them. As noted above, that is not the case here, paving the way for an interesting controversy to develop between the two schools.

More information on the proposed name change can be found here: http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_17901564