Third Education Group ReviewA peer-reviewed electronic journal.   ISSN 1557-2870


On December 30, 2009, a federal court issued the following injunction against Richard Phelps:

1. Richard Phelps is permanently enjoined and restrained from using “Third Education Group” or any confusingly similar term as a name or mark for any goods, services, internet domain names, websites, or organization or other entity regarding education research, policy, or theory.

2. Richard Phelps is permanently enjoined and restrained from diluting the distinctive quality of the name and mark “Third Education Group.”

3. Richard Phelps is permanently enjoined and restrained from representing that he retains or has had any affiliation with Third Education Group, Inc. during the period of this injunction.

4. Richard Phelps shall take all necessary steps to transfer all rights and interest he has in any domain name containing the terms Third Education Group acquired prior to March 14, 2006 to Third Education Group, Inc.

5. In accordance with 15 U.S.C. § 1119, the Director of the Patent and Trademark Office shall rectify the register with respect to the registration of any party to this action so as to identify Third Education Group, Inc. as the Owner / Registrant of the mark “Third Education Group.”

In an earlier ruling, the court invalidated Phelps' claims to own the Third Education Group trademark:

Thus, the trademark is the property of TEG, Inc., as the successor to TEG. Phelps has no rights in the trademark that may be enforced under statutory or common law...... The court finds unpersuasive Phelps' contention that he retained possession of the trademark and the domain names and TEG used them under a license agreement. Phelps produces no evidence to prove that such a license agreement existed. Rather, the license / licensee argument appears to be a post hoc rationalization for Phelps' actions.

The dispute with Phelps, the co-founder of Third Education Group, originated because of disagreement over an article published by the journal, on the recommendation of two of the three reviewers (Phelps was the third). When the article was published, Phelps changed the password to Third Education Group's website and subsequently moved the domain to his own web site. He then mounted a steady campaign against Third Education Group, Inc., and its journal--claiming ownership of its title, of its ISSN number, and of the domains originally used by the journal.

In September 2007, Phelps' attorney sent a letter to our service provider under the federal Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), followed by a more detailed second letter, demanding that our site be taken down because of alleged copyright violations. As a result, the site was blocked until early December. Following a "counter notification" from our attorney, it was available for a short period but then taken down again by our service provider, Pair Networks. Since then, we have changed providers.

In November 2007, Third Education Group, Inc., brought a lawsuit against Richard Phelps, a former participant in the organization. To view the complaint submitted to the Wisconsin district court, click here. This complaint lays out the history of the dispute with Phelps, as well as a more general history of this organization. Phelps' attorneys counter-sued in federal court. Both cases were then consolidated in federal court.

One disturbing element of Phelps' attorneys' filings is the number of half-truths and deliberate falsehoods included in an attempt to rewrite the history of the Third Education Group. These tried to make the argument that Phelps was the sole participant and that he never agreed to the formation of Third Education Group, Inc.

After Phelps closed the journal's site, we worked diligently for a solution that would avoid litigation while upholding the editorial integrity of this journal. Several others, believing in the journal's mission, tried to negotiate a solution, only to eventually give up in frustration as Phelps kept changing his demands. We started litigation reluctantly but saw no other viable alternative.