11/9/07

RIM sues LG over phone names

Black Label, Black Cherry and Strawberry are too similar to BlackBerry, company argues


In its latest showdown over trademarks, Research In Motion Ltd. sued LG Electronics Inc. this week as it tries to stop that company from using names that are a bit too BlackBerryesque, including Black Label, Strawberry and Black Cherry.

As far as RIM is concerned, any wireless device with the words Black, Berry or Pearl in their name should be off limits to rivals unless they have its consent, the company says in a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

The BlackBerry brand has become a gold mine in recent years as use of e-mail on the go has taken off. RIM has used the BlackBerry trademark since at least 1999, and last year introduced the BlackBerry Pearl. The brand is the core business for RIM, which generates $3-billion (U.S.) in annual revenue.

"RIM's BlackBerry wireless handheld devices and the goodwill associated with its BlackBerry marks are invaluable to RIM's continued success," RIM said in its court filing.

In the complaint, RIM alleges that LG's Black Label, Strawberry and Black Cherry names for its wireless phones are too similar to its own, and infringe on its trademarks.

"The aforesaid actions of LG have caused, and, unless enjoined, will continue to cause monetary damage and irreparable injury to RIM and the BlackBerry marks for which there is no adequate remedy at law," Waterloo, Ont.-based RIM said.

None of the allegations have been proved in court. A spokeswoman for LG's U.S. operations didn't return a call seeking comment. A RIM spokeswoman said company executives weren't available for comment.

LG isn't the only company to have faced a challenge from RIM over the BlackBerry name. Last December, RIM filed a suit in the same court against Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. alleging that company's BlackJack wireless device was creating confusion between the two products. RIM and Samsung settled the suit.

Today in the United States, wireless carrier AT&T Inc. continues to carry Samsung's BlackJack line alongside RIM's competing BlackBerry devices.

The current dispute with LG appears to go back to March, 2006, when LG filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to use the Black Label brand.

Over the next 10 months, LG filed additional applications for the Chocolate Black Label Series, Black Jewel, Black Jewelry, Blackruby, Blackpearl, and Pearlring names, which were disputed by RIM, the complaint alleges.

Then in May, 2007, U.S. wireless carrier Verizon Wireless allegedly asked RIM for permission to use the names Black Cherry and Blueberry for the line of Chocolate wireless devices it carried from LG. RIM said no, according to the complaint.

Nevertheless, Verizon started selling LG Chocolate phones called Strawberry and Black Cherry, the complaint alleges. Nancy Stark, a Verizon spokeswoman, declined to comment yesterday. The company was not named as a defendant in RIM's suit.

RIM is going to court to ask for the destruction of all LG goods with Pearl, Berry or Black in their names. RIM is also seeking unspecified damages.

RIM shares have been steadily climbing in recent months, leading to a 136-per-cent gain this year. However, the stock slumped yesterday after technology giant Cisco Systems Inc. reported a big revenue slowdown to some industries.

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