VA Trademarks GI Bill

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The Department of Veterans Affairs is taking a page from the private sector to protect the "brand" of one of its most famous programs: the GI Bill.

The VA has registered "GI Bill" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office making the agency the sole owner of the phrase, VA officials announced today. The move is tied to an executive order issued in April by President Obama directing the VA to "stop deceptive and misleading" promotional efforts aimed at servicemembers, veterans and their eligible family members or survivors.

"We want to ensure the right balance with these new guidelines so that our stakeholders can still promote GI Bill and we can prohibit others from using it fraudulently," Curtis L. Coy, deputy undersecretary for economic opportunity, said in the statement released today by the VA.

The VA expects to issue terms of use for "GI Bill" within the next six months, it said.

"We want to ensure the right balance with these new guidelines so that our stakeholders can still promote GI Bill and we can prohibit others from using it fraudulently," said Curtis L. Coy, deputy undersecretary for economic opportunity.   

The VA also obtained the rights to the GIBill.com website after the original owners agreed to give up the site as part of a legal settlement. That site was operated by an online marketing firm whose clients included for-profit schools and colleges.

The firm, QuinStreet, not only gave up the GIBill.com domain name, but agreed to pay $2.5 million in penalties under the legal settlement with several state attorneys general over deceptive advertising practices intended to bring in veterans.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said the agency would continue to support veterans by helping them get the best education of their choosing.

"We all want veterans to be informed consumers in their educational pursuit," he said.

The VA says it has paid out more than $23.8 billion in Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to more than 866,000 vets, servicemembers and dependents since August 2009. The department currently has more than 478,000 Fall 2012 enrollments for bill benefits, it said.

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