Zippo Manufacturing Company, the company behind the iconic Zippo lighter, and its subsidiary ZippMark Inc. are bringing a subsidiary of tobacco maker Lorillard to court over trademark infringement, the claimants announced in a press release.
At the center of the dispute is the Blu brand name that Zippo uses for its lighters and LOEC Inc., Lorillard’s unit, uses for the name of a popular electronic cigarette.
Zippo filed the lawsuit in a California district court, demanding LOEC stop marketing its product under the “blu” mark since it is a trademark owned by Zippo for its blue-flame butane lighters. The company said it decided to start legal proceedings against the company after LOEC asked a judge last month to declare non-infringement of Zippo’s rights to the trademark.
Zippo applied to register the trademark—BLU in capital letters—in 2005. The company started using it for its butane gas lighters two years later, the Daily Mail reports.
Lorillard purchased the electronic cigarette line—blu in lowercase letters—in 2012, paying $139 million in cash and considerations, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The original developers of the blu name are BLEC LLC and associated companies, which are owned by Australian businessman Jason Healy. The electronic cigarette first appeared on the market under the blu name in 2009.
Robert Bannon, Lorillard’s director of investor relations, said in a statement that while his company doesn’t comment on pending litigation, it still believes that it is not infringing Zippo’s trademark. He said the company is determined to pursue the claims stated in the court filing.
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