VANCOUVER - Peter Andrew Allard's name is synonymous with law at the University of British Columbia. Literally.

The philanthropist has donated more than $40 million to the university's law school since 2011, with the explicit stipulation that it must bear his name.

Not coincidentally, Allard's name appears on every juris doctor degree the school awards, but it doesn't appear on other law-related degrees that UBC issues.

In recent court filings, Allard - and the prize foundation that also bears his name - petitioned the Supreme Court of British Columbia to allow them to change that.

At issue is the meaning of the phrase "degree certificates" in the 2014 gift agreement between Allard and UBC that saw him donate $30 million to the university.

That agreement requires the university to "exclusively name the faculty 'Peter A. Allard School of Law' and use this name on the exterior of the building, in the building reception area, on degree certificates and on the faculty's home page on its website."

The university interprets "degree certificates" to mean only those granted by the law school, but Allard says the phrase was intended to mean those granted in the subject of law, including not only juris doctor degrees - which are conferred by the law school - but also the master of laws and PhD law degrees, which are conferred by the university's Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

Court documents suggest Allard and the university have been in an escalating conflict about this issue since May 2016, when J.D. certificates were amended to replace "Faculty of Law" with "Peter A. Allard School of Law."

That's when Allard realized that only some of the degrees being awarded at his namesake law school actually used his name, according to court filings.

"Between May 2016 and April 2017, the parties had a number of discussions and exchanged correspondence with respect to the use of the name," the documents read, noting that Allard only wanted "reasonable reference" to his name on the degrees issued by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

Those discussions apparently ended with a letter from UBC President Santa Ono, which indicated that the university "would not be pursuing the matter" further.

Rather than dropping the issue, however, Allard brought the contract to arbitration at the British Columbia International Commercial Arbitration Centre.

In September, arbitrator Neil Wittmann issued his decision, finding in favour of UBC. Wittmann concluded that neither Allard nor UBC had "objectively addressed" the meaning of "degree certificates" in the gift agreement before signing it, and that it was clear that the agreement intended to substitute the name "Peter A. Allard School of Law" in places where the words "Faculty of Law" had previously appeared.

The dispute arises, Wittmann writes in his decision, from "the honest, good faith belief" of Allard and his lawyer in "a false premise": namely, that master's and PhD degrees in law were issued by the Faculty of Law.

In other words, the misunderstanding lies with Allard, not with UBC's interpretation of its agreement with him. The arbitrator's decision describes Allard saying he was "stunned" to learn that the law school did not, in fact, issue degrees other than J.D. degrees.

UBC counsel Hubert Lai said in a statement that the university was "pleased to learn" that the arbitrator had upheld its understanding of the gift agreement.

"We have fully honoured the gift agreement," Lai said. "We continue to be grateful for Mr. Allard’s generous support and the positive impact it has had for law students and faculty over the years."

According to his biography on the law school website, Allard received a bachelor of arts from UBC in 1968 and a bachelor of laws from the university in 1971. In addition to his $30 million gift to the law school in 2014, Allard gave more than $11 million in 2011 for the construction of the law school's building, now known as Allard Hall.

In their petition to B.C. Supreme Court, Allard and his foundation ask the justices to grant them leave to appeal the arbitrator's decision and - if an appeal is granted - to find in favour of them instead. If that happens, they also ask that the university be ordered to pay their court costs.