A U.S. District Court judge yesterday declined to intervene in a bitter dispute between two black charitable organizations competing for federal employe contributions to the Combined Federal Campaign.
The two groups--the Washington-based United Black Fund of America (UBF) and the National Black United Fund (NBUF) of New York--have been arguing for several years over trademark rights to the use of their names. That litigation is pending in the federal court here.
At an hour-long hearing yesterday, John Moses, an attorney for the NBUF, asked Judge Harold H. Greene to overturn a decision by Donald J. Devine, director of the Office of Personnel Management, to include both groups in the approved list of national service organizations eligible to receive contributions. Moses told Greene that federal employes would be confused by the similar names, and asked that the Washington-based UBF be stricken from the list.
D.C. City Council member Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8), whose husband Calvin heads the the UBF, also asked Greene to overturn Devine's decision, but argued that it was the New York-based group that should be removed from the list.
Each side argued that the other was not a national organization. In court documents, UBF listed contributions last year of $3 million, while Moses said NBUF received about $2.6 million.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John D. Bates, representing the Office of Personnel Management, said that both groups had been on the eligibility list in the past and that while UBF, which had been listed as a United Way affiliate, was now listed as a national service organization, it was up to local campaign committees around the country to decide who would receive contributions.
"I don't know which will be harmed more" by any confusion because of similarities in names, Bates said, adding that numerous other groups on the list have similar names. "OPM can't resolve the trademark issue," Bates said.
Greene, after a 60-minute hearing, decided to deny each side's request. "If either organization is barred," Greene said, "the injury is irreparable." But Greene said that if both were allowed to participate, "there might be some injury to each because of confusion but not nearly so great as would occur if one were stricken."
Greene said the trademark question was "cloudy and confused" and that he couldn't "see that Devine was clearly wrong" in deciding to include both on the approved list.