KIPP and TFA are apparently going to have to reach into their VERY deep pockets (See Be a little more honest KIPP Charter Schools and Teach For America— Expensive) to defend themselves against a new lawsuit that accuses the two organizations of stealing ideas and curriculum. The following is drawn from Springboards to Education statement on the lawsuits filed.
Springboards to Education, Inc. filed a civil lawsuit against Teach For America (“TFA”) in the United States District Court, Northern District of Texas. TFA, a non-profit, federally funded organization with net assets in excess of $500 Million, is the nation’s largest provider of alternatively certified teachers. TFA teachers receive 18 hours of student teaching prior to being hired as the teacher of record in some of our nation’s most underserved schools. A similar lawsuit was also filed against the Knowledge is Power Program (“KIPP”). Founded by two TFA alums, KIPP schools make up the nation’s largest charter school network and are currently run by Richard Barth – husband of TFA founder Wendy Kopp. KIPP relies primarily on TFA recruits and maintains a close relationship with TFA.
Springboards to Education, founded by Johnny Lopez, holds several federal trademarks from the United States Patent and Trademark Office associated with its “Million Words” campaign (the “Campaign”) and the Campaign’s related content. Mr. Lopez remarked in his statement concerning the same: “In our civil suit, we outline specific and overt instances where TFA and KIPP schools have engaged in trademark counterfeiting, trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and unfair competition arising from TFA’s and KIPP’s unauthorized use of Springboards’. federally registered trademarks as well its common law rights in and to the Campaign. It is important to point out that while our current suit is civil, violations of federal trademark and copyright laws are also criminal and carry with them significant penalties.”
In 2010, Springboards’ founder Lopez met with, now CFO of TFA, Elisa Villanueva Beard to discuss TFA partnering with Springboards to provide the organization’s proprietary Campaign and approach to literacy. No official relationship was ever initiated by TFA. However, later in 2012, TFA launched its “Million Words Campaign”— thereby violating Springboards’ federal trademarks and common law rights. In addition, the associated approaches and incentive program associated with Springboards’ Million Words Campaign was also utilized by TFA without authorization.
The Monitor reports,
Lopez said the validity of his product is backed by his research and continues to be used in districts around the country and around the world. But after approaching some of the districts mentioned in the lawsuit with these products, he said they refused to buy the product, creating instead their own, which he later noticed included some of his protected materials.
Because of TFA’s and KIPP’s heavy integration in Texas it appears from the reporting that the Springboard curriculum may have leaked into districts. It will be VERY interesting to see where a potential process of discovery in the recently filed lawsuit leads. I suspect that TFA and KIPP don’t want be dragged into court because their inner workings would be subject to scrutiny in a very public forum. Regardless of what you think about the stealing of ideas and curriculum from Springboard, you might want to get ready to pop popcorn at the prospect of KIPP and TFA’s inner-workings exposed in open court. I suspect the possibility of having this information readily available and Elisa VB testifying is very undesirous potentiality for these privately controlled organizations that yearly receive hundreds of millions of taxpayer $$.
For more on KIPP click here.
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