Memorial sued over use of the word "engineering"
By Brendan Howe
Two professional engineering associations do not want Memorial University in Newfoundland associating the word engineering with one of its programs and are suing the university in an attempt to stop them. The same controversy has also found its way to Western's campus.
Memorial began a new computer science program in September designated as a specialization in software engineering. But the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers and the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Newfoundland are taking the university to court because they believe the program name is misleading.
Alan Steeves, executive director of APEGN, said by using "software engineering" in the program name, Memorial is infringing on a trademark held by CCPE. He also said the program name had the possibility of misleading the public.
"There are certain rights given to the terms 'engineer' and 'engineering'. The words 'software engineer' make you believe you're an engineer," Steeves said.
A lawsuit was the only option after the university's Senate approved the course name, he said.
Peter Morris, assistant director of university relations at Memorial, said the university has owned the trademark for "software engineering" since July of last year. The university is not doing anything wrong by using this name for the program, he added.
"We're very clear in what we're offering here. There's even a disclaimer in the course calendar saying this will not lead to an engineering degree or the title of professional engineer," Morris said.
He estimated the civil lawsuit would cost $400,000 in legal fees but said it is worth it because the school is fighting this battle on behalf of all Canadian universities. He added the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada has been very supportive and may give Memorial up to $100,000 to help them with the proceedings.
The same debate is also happening at Western after a new program that uses the term "software engineering" in its name was proposed in a Senate meeting in December but was sent back to the Senate Committee on Academic Planning and Admissions because of concern about the name.
Mohan Mathur, dean of engineering science at Western, stated his support of the proposed program during the Senate meeting, but said if the program is engineering it should be in the engineering department rather than the computer science department. "Otherwise, it should have a different name," he said. At that point, Senate voted to have the name of the program re-evaluated by SCAPA.
Yong Kang, Western's dean of science, said software engineering should be used to describe the program because other universities currently use that name and people know what it means. "When you say software engineering everybody in computer science understands what you mean."
Kang said if Memorial does not win the lawsuit then the name may have to be changed before the program starts this September at Western. Morris said the Memorial lawsuit will probably be in the courts towards the end of February.