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Members of the Hartford, Conn.-based Lawyers Without Borders are used to fighting for worthy causes as an international clearinghouse for attorneys taking on foreign work. However, the fight they now face is their own in trying to stop a similar humanitarian organization from blocking its application to use the trademark “without borders” name. Stating that the use of the “without borders” name would confuse the public, the Bureau International de Medecins Sans Frontieres and Medecins Sans Frontieres USA Inc., doing business as Doctors Without Borders, have filed a notice of opposition against LWOB before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board in the United States Patent and Trademark Office. According to the notice of opposition filed by Doctors Without Borders, the use of the trademark name was “likely to cause substantial confusion and/or blurring in the minds of the public, who may mistakenly believe” that the two separate humanitarian projects are affiliated. Doctors Without Borders, an international non-profit corporation based in Belgium and New York, serves as a recruitment service for medical professionals wishing to participate in relief projects worldwide. The corporation’s name, first used in 1971, was registered as a trademark in 1994. Last year, Lawyers Without Borders filed an application to register its name under the international class for legal services, a move which its director, Christina Storm, said was a logical one for the newly formed organization. Based on similar organizations in other fields, Lawyers Without Borders helps connect attorneys and law students with non-profit organizations worldwide to help promote the use of conflict resolution, mediation, and other skills in human rights and government-making efforts. According to Storm, also an attorney at Byrne & Storm, LWOB, formed last year, is the first attorney-based organization in the country to perform such work globally. “It’s regrettable that valuable resources of our organization are going to be spent on litigation instead of directed to our mission — which in light of recent events in New York and Washington, have become even more pressing,” Storm said. “I haven’t heard anyone lately confuse the American Bar Association with the American Medical Association.” Other professions using the “without borders” name include Engineers Without Borders, Teachers Without Borders, and Musicians Without Borders. Barry Gold of New York’s Thuillez, Ford, Gold & Johnson, a member of LWOB and a health care law attorney said he respected the work of both organizations. “I don’t see a likelihood that people would confuse DWOB and the lawyers [without borders],” Gold said. “I don’t think any one profession has the corner in providing volunteer services around the world or having a name that indicates that’s what their mission is.”

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