Not-for-profit Mission Health Corp., a Michigan-based joint venture sponsored by Daughters of Charity National Health System and Mercy Health Services, has entered a trademark dispute with for-profit MissionHealth of Nashville.
Organizers of the not-for-profit joint venture have accused the nearly year-old MissionHealth of infringing on their trademark, and they demand that the company drop the moniker.
But because MissionHealth has yet to relent, the not-for-profit is weighing legal action to protect its U.S. and Michigan registrations of the "Mission Health" trademark.
The discord is reminiscent of Columbia University's 1996 trademark case against Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. That lawsuit ended in a truce last year when the Nashville-based chain agreed not to use the name "Columbia" in New York.
The latest war of words pits St. Louis-based Daughters and Farmington Hills, Mich.-based Mercy Health against well-known healthcare consultant Joshua Nemzoff, who owns MissionHealth. Nemzoff unveiled MissionHealth in January. The company's strategy is to pump cash into not-for-profit hospitals through for-profit partnerships and take a percentage of the hospitals' excess cash. But the company has yet to close a deal with a not-for-profit.
Mission Health Corp. is quite different. It was formed in 1994 as a joint venture to operate Mercy's St. Joseph Mercy Health System in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Daughters of Charity's Providence Hospital and Medical Center in Southfield, Mich. That deal broke up last year, but a scaled-down Mission Health now administers a charity-care fund and operates a Lavonia, Mich.-based ambulatory-care facility.
Barbara Goldman, an attorney representing Mission Health, maintains that the new MissionHealth is likely to cause some confusion. In a letter dated May 13, she demanded that Nemzoff "cease and desist" from further use of the name.
The fact that her clients use Mission Health as two words, as opposed to MissionHealth's one-word, stylized version, is "immaterial," Goldman said. "It's heard the same way, and one person may not remember whether there's a space or not."
Nemzoff said he does not intend to forfeit the MissionHealth name, and he considers the brouhaha a nonissue. "It would be very hard to conceive that anyone would confuse the two organizations," he said.
Nemzoff said MissionHealth does not plan to do business in Michigan. That could help pave the way to a resolution, similar to the one in the Columbia dispute.
Goldman declined to discuss Mission Health's next legal maneuver, but Agnes Hagerty, general counsel for Mercy Health, said the venture partners are "definitely considering other options." She expects a decision on whether to pursue litigation before year-end.