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Judge declines to block Sanford Health's use of clinic name at Grand Forks facility

That lawsuit is still unfolding in state district court, with a trial scheduled for June 2022. But in the meantime, District Court Judge Jason McCarthy has denied Grand Forks Clinic’s request for a preliminary injunction that would have barred Sanford from using the similar name.

Sanford Clinic Ribbon Cutting.jpeg
In this Herald file photo from August 2021, Justin Stromme, clinic manager at Sanford Health (left), and Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski (right) cut the ribbon for the grand opening of Sanford's new clinic in Grand Forks. (Jacob Holley/Grand Forks Herald)
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Grand Forks Clinic suffered a setback in its case against Sanford Health when a state judge declined to block the health care giant from using a highly similar name.

The clinic has been waging a lawsuit against Sanford for two months, with its lawyers arguing that Sanford’s new Grand Forks location is going by “Sanford Health Grand Forks Clinic” or “Grand Forks Clinic” — sowing confusion and infringing on a trade name that Grand Forks Clinic used for years. Sanford has responded that any similarity is in generic words that can’t be claimed exclusively.

That lawsuit is still unfolding in state district court, with a trial scheduled for June 2022. But in the meantime, District Court Judge Jason McCarthy has denied Grand Forks Clinic’s request for a preliminary injunction that would have barred Sanford from using the similar name.

In a six-page order outlining his decision, McCarthy explained that he would give “deference” to the North Dakota secretary of state’s decision to issue Sanford’s trade name, and wrote that Grand Forks Clinic — the plaintiffs — hadn’t shown sufficient evidence that local consumers are confusing the two.

“Following the judge’s ruling in our favor, we will continue to use Grand Forks in our new clinic name,” said Justin Stromme, the senior director of Sanford Health Network. “This reflects both our standard naming conventions and our commitment to the Grand Forks community. We’re very thankful to the community for so warmly welcoming our services in this new location and look forward to taking care of our patients in Grand Forks for years to come.”

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RELATED: Grand Forks fight over clinic name spills into court

The lawsuit centers on the new, $12 million Sanford Health location at 47th Avenue South that opened this summer, adjacent to a long-planned Edgewood Healthcare senior living campus. Grand Forks Clinic’s website lists a 44th Avenue South location, as well as a new location that was planned to open this summer along South Washington Street.

Grand Forks Clinic leaders did not respond to a request for comment on Monday. Its lawyers have previously argued that Sanford “must know that it might capitalize on consumer confusion” with a competitor. They have also argued that the name similarity is already causing confusion in North Dakota; in one example, a front desk receptionist at the Grand Forks Clinic was briefly mistaken for a Sanford employee at its own Grand Forks location.

“With your support, our clinic will continue to thrive,” Dr. Khaled Rabadi, owner of the Grand Forks Clinic, wrote in a Facebook post in July . “We will defend our clinic and we will defend our name. We will work harder than ever to care for you and our community.”

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