Small veterans’ charity sued for “unfair competition” by Wounded Warrior Project

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The founder of a small Pennsylvania charity helping wounded warriors in that state says the group has spent more than $72,000 defending a lawsuit from the Wounded Warrior Project over their similar logos.

"We're out of pocket a lot of money and I am sure they are out of pocket a lot of money," said Paul Spurgin, the director of Keystone Wounded Warriors and a Marine who served two combat tours in Vietnam.

Keystone LogoThe issue is the similarity of the charities' logos. The famous Wounded Warrior Project logo shows a silhouette of one soldier carrying another on his back.

The Keystone Wounded Warriors logo is also a silhouette of soldiers, but shows one dragging another across the ground. In a federal lawsuit, the Wounded Warrior Project declared it "has suffered irreparable damage to its business, goodwill, reputation and profits" because of the Pennsylvania charity's logo.

The Wounded Warrior Project said the Pennsylvania charity's trademark would likely "confuse" donors. In the most recent tax records available, the Wounded Warrior Project listed an income of $234,682,943. The Keystone Wounded Warriors income was $211,141, which is less than the salary of Wounded Warrior Project CEO Steve Nardizzi.

Nardizzi told NewsChannel 3 most charities change their logos or names when asked. He said he vigorously guards the trademark because it is among the charity's most valuable assets.

"Our logo is pretty sacred to us. It represents everything we believe in as an organization," he said.

Spurgin said his charity once partnered with the Wounded Warrior Project and raised money for it. Later, he and others decided to start a charity for Pennsylvania veterans. He said a high-school student designed the logo, and the Keystone Wounded Warriors were granted a trademark.

Court papers show the Wounded Warrior Project objected and later sued. Spurgin says he and his colleagues decided to defend their trademark.

"As veterans, and especially as a Marine, we don't turn and run," he said.

He said what is the most unfortunate is that both charities have spent money in court that could have been better used helping veterans.

"If we fight, the warrior suffers," he said. "And our philosophy is, it's not about us. It's about the people we serve. It's about them."

Nardizzi said protecting the trademark is so important that it has, in this case, meant suing another charity that also provides services to wounded warriors.

"We need to be protective when folks design logos, use names, and act in a way that might confuse the public, that might lead them to believe (another charity) is the Wounded Warrior Project when they are not," Nardizzi said.

Spurgin told NewsChannel 3 last week that the two sides had come to an agreement. He said all they were waiting for were signatures from the Wounded Warrior Project lawyers. In an email Wednesday to NewsChannel 3, a Wounded Warrior Project spokeswoman denied that and added that there might be consequences for Keystone Wounded Warriors because Spurgin spoke publicly.

"Most recently, we met and thought we had come to a mutual agreement," wrote Ayla Hay, an executive vice president. "However, in light of Mr. Spurgin's decision to go on television and speak about us, we now question his desire to resolve the issue."

When asked if Spurgin's participation in our story would affect the lawsuit's resolution, Hay responded: "Mr. Spurgin's current behavior and false statements indicate he is acting in bad faith as he has done since he ceased fundraising for WWP. We will certainly need to consider Mr. Spurgin's motives as we contemplate settlement."

5 comments

  • Jackie burnip

    Who is this Alya hay anyway, I didn’t hear Mr Spurgin say anything about them in bad faith. As I see it the projects logo is a deviation of the Firemans carry. How can they hold that sacred. When it has been around about a hundred years.
    Mr Spurgins comment, is seems like the project is trying to get rid of any charity who is in competition with them.
    Well that sounds about right to me. And it sounds like this Ms. Hay is trying to intimidate The Keystone wounded warriors with threats.
    I can tell you who I would donate to, and it would not be the ww project.

  • steve

    The amount of their respective donations received prove that donors are not confused as to which is which. I think WWP are being jackasses.

  • Insiderinfo

    Ayla Hay is the EVP of communications at WWP. Notice in here comment how she mentions “since they stopped fundraising for WWP”. They are a huge non profit that bullies smaller nonprofits. They raise over 250 million a year and sue a charity that barely raised 212,000, that’s just sad. I wish someone would ask WWP about the 2.5 million they wasted this year on an all staff trip to DC or all the donor dollars the spend on meals at the office, alcohol, team building that consists of nothing more than ouch at high end restaurants. They do ZERO case management never following up with warriors, they leave them forgotten. WWP claims they served over 260,000 warriors in 2014, yeah right. They may of had that many in there data base but to say they provide services to all of them is false, more like 5,000. Ever notice you never see a warrior with non physical injuries in a national fundraising ad, that’s because they parade around warriors with injuries you can see to make more money. They don’t even compensate those warriors or families. A charity that hit 1 billion in donations in January filled there parking lot with food trucks to celebrate, way to waste donor dollars. They must think we are chimney’s the way they are blowing smoke up our backside. They are a scam and someone needs to look under the hood to see what’s really going on. I’ll never support WWP again!!!! I’ll stop my rant now before they sue me!

  • Unclezip

    So it’s all about the money. That’s why I spurn charities and find other ways to help.

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