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Grand Forks Clinic unhappy with Sanford's name choice

A new facility, Sanford Health Grand Forks Clinic, is welcoming patients now on 47th Avenue South. But the business has a name very similar to Grand Forks Clinic, which already has been operating in the community.

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A scene from the construction site of the two-story, 22,000-square-foot Sanford Grand Forks Clinic, in a photo taken in early January 2021. (Photo courtesy of Sanford Health)
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GRAND FORKS — What’s in a name? And, when it’s a common name, who owns it?

Khaled Rabadi has some strong opinions. He’s a doctor at the Grand Forks Clinic, a collection of providers with specialties in nephrology, podiatry dermatology and more that’s been at 44th Avenue South (though the company website promises a new facility this summer).

Rabadi is frustrated that Sanford Health is opening its own new clinic in Grand Forks — with familiar business name.

“I learned late last week that Sanford Health plans to call its new location ‘Grand Forks Clinic,’” Rabadi wrote in a Facebook post late last month, since shared more than 100 times and carrying dozens of comments. “That’s right. Sanford Health is using our name. We asked Sanford politely not to use our name to avoid confusion, but they refused.”

That new facility, Sanford Health Grand Forks Clinic, is welcoming patients now on 47th Avenue South. It’s a $12 million investment with a wide range of services — set right next to a soon-to-come senior living campus by Edgewood Healthcare.

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Rabadi’s Facebook post argues that this is all straightforward and simple. State records show the trade name was registered in late 2018, and Rabadi says it belongs to his clinic. He’s worried patients could get confused “because Sanford is using our name.”

“With your support, our clinic will continue to thrive,” Rabadi wrote. “We will defend our clinic and we will defend our name. We will work harder than ever to care for you and our community.”

But it might be more complicated than that. It’s not clear that Rabadi can do much to stop Sanford, or that Sanford is doing anything wrong.

North Dakota Deputy Secretary of State Jim Silrum said his office would not issue another trade name for “Grand Forks Clinic.” But “Grand Forks” is a generic term, and so is “clinic.” So even though Sanford Health appears to be operating under an extremely similar name — “Sanford Health Grand Forks Clinic” — Silrum said it’s not quite the same.

“We would approve a name that is different such as ‘Sanford Health Grand Forks Clinic’ or ‘Sanford Grand Forks Clinic,’ because of the generic words used in the trade name that exists ‘Grand Forks Clinic,’ which no one can own with exclusivity,” he said.

Rabadi, through an employee at the Grand Forks Clinic, declined to comment.

Sanford officials say it’s simply a matter of coincidence — and long-running company policy — that the clinic carries the same title.

“Sanford names our clinics after where they are located. For example, our clinic in Detroit Lakes is called ‘Sanford Health Detroit Lakes Clinic,’” said Justin Stromme, senior director of Sanford Health Network, in a statement emailed by a spokesperson. “Our East Grand Forks location has been ‘Sanford East Grand Forks Clinic’ since 2009. Our location names are reflective of the communities we serve.”

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That means, for now, Sanford looks to be squarely focused on moving ahead with the Grand Forks name in place.

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