Sanford Health is facing a lawsuit over the name of its new clinic in Grand Forks — from a small, independent medical group that claims Sanford has taken its name.
Grand Forks Clinic is a collection of providers — from podiatry to nephrology to dermatology — that has served the community for years. It has two locations: one on 44th Avenue South, and an expanding location along South Washington.
And now, its lawyers say, it has to contend with Sanford, which opened its new facility this summer and is operating under nearly precisely the same name.
"Without seeking permission from (Grand Forks Clinic)….Sanford began calling its new location 'Sanford Health Grand Forks Clinic' and 'Grand Forks Clinic,'" the clinic's lawyers wrote in court documents. "…Sanford must know that it might capitalize on consumer confusion with Grand Forks Clinic, which it undoubtedly knows is its neighbor and competitor."
The clinic's lawyers said that the chief doctor at the clinic, Dr. Khaled Rabadi, had already been asked by a patient if his clinic was part of Sanford — and raised the possibility that similar names might cause logistical problems transferring medical records and patients.
In a complaint filed earlier this month, lawyers for Grand Forks Clinic are asking a court to bar Sanford from using a highly similar name, plus any damages determined at trial.
The lawsuit was filed several weeks ago, just as Rabadi posted his frustrations with Sanford Health on social media, explaining that Grand Forks Clinic had already asked Sanford to change its new clinic's name in recent weeks.
“With your support, our clinic will continue to thrive,” Rabadi wrote on Facebook. “We will defend our clinic and we will defend our name. We will work harder than ever to care for you and our community.”
At the time, a Sanford official explained that the health giant's clinics are often named after their communities, like "Sanford Health Detroit Lakes Clinic." In court documents, lawyers for both medical groups have sparred over exceptions to that rule — which Sanford said occurs in communities where it has multiple locations.
Grand Forks Clinic has a state-registered trade name dating back to 2018. But Jim Silrum, North Dakota’s deputy secretary of state, said earlier this month that it’s a combination of two extremely common components — “Grand Forks” and “Clinic.” So while his office wouldn’t issue an identical business name, it would approve “Sanford Health Grand Forks Clinic” or “Sanford Grand Forks Clinic.”
In court documents, Sanford’s legal team said they rejected the Grand Forks Clinic’s claims.
“The name Grand Forks Clinic is generic, not unique and not protectable under North Dakota law,” Sanford’s legal team wrote. “...plaintiff is not entitled to the exclusive use of the words or phrase Grand Forks Clinic.”
A hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept. 17.