Amid ongoing litigation against Liberty University, former Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr. has filed another lawsuit, suing the evangelical institution for trademark infringement. The lawsuit claims the university is improperly using the name of his father, LU founder Jerry Falwell Sr., MarketWatch reported.
Falwell Jr., who resigned from LU in 2020 amid a sex scandal, is currently suing Liberty for $8.5 million in retirement benefits that he claims he is owed. LU has sought to dismiss the lawsuit.
The latest lawsuit, filed last week, marks a showdown between Liberty and the younger Falwell over how the university, founded by his televangelist father in 1971, can use his image, which frequently appears in university materials. Falwell Jr. brought the lawsuit as a member of the Falwell Trust, which holds a trademark on his father’s name, likeness and intellectual property. He argues that Liberty University continues to use that trademark without explicit permission.
At the core of the legal fight is a plan to build a multimillion-dollar Jerry Falwell Center. The facility will feature the accomplishments of the televangelist and a hologram of him delivering sermons. The younger Falwell told Inside Higher Ed last year that the plans were “Disneyesque” and that his next battle with LU would be over his father’s legacy. Now that skirmish has finally arrived in the form of last week’s lawsuit.
In an emailed statement, a Liberty University spokesperson noted that the name of Falwell Sr. is “synonymous with Liberty University” and pointed to ongoing legal battles with the ex-president.
“This lawsuit is in response to a specific request by Mr. Falwell, one trustee of the Falwell Family Trust, for the university to pay $7 million dollars [sic] for his permission to continue to use the name of Liberty’s founder for the next four years. Included in his demand is the expectation that, in effect, former president Falwell would also have total editorial control of Liberty’s use of the name of Liberty’s founder,” the statement read in part. It added that Liberty “is confident it will ultimately prevail in this case and the university will be able to maintain its use of the name of its founder.”